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THE AMAZON. 



A 

MISSION TO GELELE, 

KING OF DAHOME. 



WITH NOTICES OF 

THE SO CALLED "AMAZONS," THE GRAND CUSTOMS, THE 

YEARLY CUSTOMS, THE HUMAN SACRIFICES, THE 

PRESENT STATE OF THE SLAVE TRADE, 

■AND 

THE NEGRO'S PLACE IN NATURE. 



RICHARD F. BURTON, 

(LATE COMMISSIONER TO DAHOME,) 
AUTHOR OF " A PILGRIMAGE TO EL MEDINAH AND MECCAH." 



' If a man be ambitious to improve in knowledge and wisdom, lie should travel into 
foreign countries," — Philostratus in Apoll, 

* Every kingdom, every province, sbould have its own monographer." 

Gilbert White. 



IN TWO VOLUMES. 
VOL. I. 



LONDON: 

TINSLET BEOTHEES, 18, CATHERINE STEEET, STEAND= 

1864. 

\_The Right of Translation and Eeproduction reserved.] 



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LONDON : , 
BllADBUUY AND EVAXti, PRINTEKS, WHITEFRIAHS, 



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A MIS AMIGOS ESPANOLES EX EERNANDO POO, ESPECIALMENTE A 
LOS SENOEES 

BEIGADIEB D. PANTAIEON LOPEZ DE LA TOREE ATLLOIT, 

(GOBERNADOR-GENEBAL DK FERNANDO P6o T SUS DEPENDENCIAS) ; 

D. ATILANO CALVO ITUEBUEU ; 

D. TEODOSIO NOELI T 'WTIITE ; 
D. PEAlfCISCO OSOMO Y D. CAELOS DB EOJAS ; 

EN PEUEBA DE AFECTUOSA AMISTAD. 



PKEFACE. 



In the Preface affixed by an anonymous hand to 
" The History of Dahomy," pubhshed nearly three- 
fourths of a century ago,* we are told that the " short 
interval from Whydah beach to Abomey is perhaps the 
most beaten track, by Europeans, of any in Africa." 
The Author thereupon proceeds to show a difference 
of 104 miles between the maximum and minimum 
estimates of the distance, which is nearly doubled by 
the most correct. 

In this Year of Grace, 1864, there is at least 9.11 
equal amount of uncertainty concerning the " Land of 
the Amazons ; " but it shows rather in things metaphy- 

* "The History of Dahomy, an Inland Kingdom of Africa; com- 
piled from authentic Memoirs; with an Introduction and Notes. By 
Archibald Dalzel, Esq., (Governor at Whydah, then) Governor at Cape 
Coast Castle, (and lastly Governor-in-Chief of the Company's Service)." 
London, 1793. 4to. Printed for the Author by T. Spilsbury and Son, 
Snowhill. In the following pages, whenever " The History " is alluded 
to, Dalzel's is to be understood. 



viii PREFACE. 

J sical than physical. So well informed a journal as the 
"Saturday Review" (July 4th, 1863), gravely informs 
its readers that "The King of Dahome has lately 
been indulging in a sacriiice of 2000 human beings, 
simply in deference to a national prejudice (!), and to 
keep up the good old customs of the country " (! !). 

This complete miscomprehension of the subject, 
coming from such a quarter, induces me to attempt 
■without fear so well worn a theme, and to bring up to 
the present time a subject worthily handled by Snel- 
grave,* Smith,t Norris,! Dalzel, M'Leod,§ and Forbes. || 
And if, in depicting the manners and ceremonies of 
this once celebrated miUtary Empire, and in recounting 
this black Epopseia, there has been a something of 

* Captain "Williaiii Snelgrave arrived off Whydah, in the Katherino 
galley, in the latter end of March, 1726, three weeks after its capture 
by Dahome. His book, "A Pull Account of some Parts of Guinea and 
the Slave-trade," appeared in 1734. 8vo. 

t William Smith, Esq., was sent out as surveyor ia 1726. His " Isew 
Voyage to Guinea " is a posthumous work, published in 1744. 8vo. 

X "Memoirs of the Reign of Bossa Ahadee: with an Account of a 
Journey to Abomey in 1772, by Mr. Robert Norris." London, 1789. 

§ "A Voyage to Africa; with some Account of the Manners and 
Customs of the Dahomian People. By John M'Leod, M.D." London: 
John Murray, 1820. 

II " Dahomey and the Dahomans ; being the Journals of Two Missions 
to the King of Dahomey, and Residence at his Capital, in the years 1849 
and 1850. By Frederick E. Forbes, Commander R.N.," &e. 2 Vols., 
8vo. London, Longmans, 1851. 



PREFACE. is 

excessive detail, and there shall appear much that is 
trifling and superfluous, the kindly reader will perhaps 
find for it a reason. 

My principal object, it may be frankly owned, has 
been to show, in its true lights, the African kingdom 
best known by name to Europe. But in detailing its 
mixture of horrors an^ meanness, in this pitiless picture 
of its mingled puerility and brutality, of ferocity and 
politeness, I trust that none can rightfully charge me 
with exaggeration, and I can acquit myself of all 
malice. " A nadie si elogia con mentira, ni se critica 
sin verdad." 

So far back as 1861 I had volunteered, as the 
Blue Book shows, to visit Agbome. The measure not 
being then deemed advisable, I awaited till May — June, 
1863, when an opportunity presented itself. In the 
meantime (December, 1862 — January, 1863), Commo- 
dore Wilmot, E..N., Senior Officer of the Bights Divi- 
sion, accompanied by Captain Luce, R.N., and by Dr. 
Haran, of H. M. S. Brisk, devanced me, and that 
ofi&cer proved the feasibility of a visit to Dahome. 
Eeturning to Ternando Po, I soon received the gratify- 
ing intelligence that Her Majesty's Government had 
been pleased to choose me as the bearer of a friendly 



i^" 



X PREFACE. 

message to King Gelele. The official letters are, by 
permission, given in extenso below. 

FoKEiGN OpncE, August 20, 1863. 

Sir, 

You were informed by my Despatch of the 23rd of June 
last, that you had been selected by Her Majesty's GoTcrnment 
to proceed on a Mission to the King of Dahomey, to confirm 
the friendly sentiments expressed by Commodore Wilmot to the 
King on the occasion of the visit which he made to that chief in 
the months of December and January last. 

I have accordingly to desire that as soon after the receipt of 
this Despatch as it may be feasible to do so, you will proceed to 
Dahomey, taking care first, by previous communication with the 
Kiag, to ascertain that a proper reception will be accorded to you. 

You will, on your an-ival, inform the King, that the many 
important duties which devolve on Commodore Wilmot as the 
Officer in command of Her Majesty's Naval Forces on the African 
Coast, have prevented him returning in person to confirm the 
good understanding which it is hoped has been established be- 
tween the King and Her Majesty's Government by the Com- 
modore's late visit. You will state that the Commodore faithfully 
reported all that passed between him and the King, and that he 
correctly made known the wishes and feelings of Her Majesty's 
Government on the several topics on which he addressed the King. 

With regard to the question of the export of slaves from his 
territories, you will not fail to impress upon the King the im- 
portance which Her Majesty's Government attach to the cessation 
of this traffic. 

Her Majesty's Government admit the difficulties which the 
King may find in putting a stop to a trade that has so long existed 



PREFACE. xi 

in his country, and from which his ancestors have derived so much 
profit, but his income from this source must be very small com- 
pared with that of former Kings, and it will be to his interest to 
find out some other source of revenue, before that which he now 
derives from the sale of. his fellow-men to the slave dealers is 
entirely put a stop to. You will remind the King that he him- 
self suggested to Commodore "Wilmot that if we wished to put a 
stop to the slave trade, we should prevent white men from coming 
to buy them, and you mil state that Her Majesty's Government, 
having determined that the traffic shall cease, will take steps to 
prevent effectually the export of slaves from his territories. You 
will add, in illustration of what you state, that Her Majesty's 
Government have concluded a treaty with the United States 
Government, which will prevent, for the future, any American 
vessels from coming to ship slaves. 

With regard to human sacrifices, I rejoice to find from Com- 
modore Wihnot's Report, that the number of victims at the 
King's customs has been exaggerated. 

It is to be feared, however, that much difficulty will be ex- 
perienced in prevailing upon the King to put a stop entirely to 
this barbarous practice, which prevails more or less openly, along 
the greater part of the "Western Coast of Africa. But we must 
seek by whatever influence we may possess, or be able to attain, 
to mitigate, if we cannot at once prevent, the horrors of these cus- 
toms, and I rely upon your'using your best efforts for this purpose. 

The King in his interview with Commodore Wilmot expressed 
a wish that English merchants should come and settle and make 
trade at Whydah, and he offered to help to repair the old English 
fort there, and to permit it to be garrisoned by English troops. 

You will thank the King for this mark of his confidence, and 
you will at the same time state, that as he has promised to protect 
any British merchants who may settle at Whydali, Her Majesty's 



sii PREFACE. 

GoTCmment put entire faith in his promises, and see no necessity 
for sending English soldiers to garrison the fort there. You 
will, however, add, that there is one thing needful in order that 
the King's wishes in regard to the settlement of EngUsh mer- 
chants at Whydah should be carried out, and that is, that there 
should be a sufficiency of lawful trade to induce them to do so. 

English merchants cannot take slaves in return for their goods, 
they must have palm oil, ivory, cotton, and such other articles as 
the country is capable of producing. The King will see, therefore, 
that it must depend very much on his own exertions, and those 
of his subjects, whether it will be worth while for British mer- 
chants to settle at "Whydah. Should however the Kiag think fit 
to enter into an engagement with Her Majesty's Government to 
encourage lawful trade, and to promote, as far as lies in his power, 
the development of the resources of his country. Her Majesty's 
Government would be willing to appoint an agent at Whydah to 
be an organ of communication with the King and to assist in 
carrying out his views. 

As an earnest of their friendly feehngs. Her Majesty's Govern- 
ment have caused the presents, of which a list is inclosed, to be 
prepared and forwarded to you for presentation to the King. 
You will see that, as far as possible, the King's wishes as ex- 
pressed to Commodore Wilmot, have been carried out in regard 
to the articles selected for presents, with the exception of the 
carriage and horses, and with respect to these, you will explain to 
the King, that in the fii'st place it would be a difficult matter to 
get English horses out to the Coast, and even supposing they 
arrived safely at their destination, it would be very doubtful, fi-om 
the nature of the country and climate, whether they would long 
survive their arrival. 

If, however, our future relations with the King should be of 
a nature to warrant such a proceeding. Her Majesty's Government 



PREFACE. xiii 

would not hesitate to endeavour to comply with his wishes, by 
sending hini an English carriage and horses. 

I have only in conclusion to add, that it has been suggested to 
Her Majesty's Goyemment that among the King's captives there 
may still be some of the coloured Christian prisoners taken at 
Ishagga, and if on inquiry you should be able to ascertain that 
this is the case, you will state to the King that it would be taken 
by Her Majesty's Government as an earnest of his friendly feeling, 
and as shewing a desire to perform his promises to them, if he 
would restore these prisoners to liberty. 

I am. Sir, 
Your most obedient humble Servant, 

(Signed) Eussell. 



EXTKACT. 

FoEEiGN Office, August 20, 1863. 

Sm, 

With reference to my other Despatch of this day's date 
containing instructions for your guidance on proceeding to Da- 
homey, I have to state that you should, if possible, stipulate with 
the King before proceeding to Abomey, that there should be no 
human sacrifices during the time of your stay ia his capital, and 
you will, under any circumstances, declitie to sanction these sacri- 
fices by your presence, if they should unfortunately take place 
whilst you are in the country. 

The last packet from the "West Coast brought reports of the 
King of Dahomey having died from the effects of a wound re- 
ceived in one of his slave-hunting expeditions. Should these 
reports be well founded, it will be advisable that you should 
ascertain something of the character of his successor before pro- 



xiv PREFACE. 

ceeding to the Dahomian capital, and I leave it to your discretion 
to proceed subsequently to Abomey, and to deliver the presents to 
the new King or not, as you may after due consideration deem 
advisable. 

I have requested the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty to 
give directions that you may be conveyed to and from Whydah in 
a ship of war, and I have also iuformed their lordships that it 
would be advisable that a medical officer should accompany you, 
if one can be spared from Her Majesty's ships for this purpose. 

I am, Sir, 
Your most obedient humble Servant, 

(Signed) Eussell. 



FoEEiGX Office, July 23, 1863. 



Sm, 



With reference to my Despatch of the 23rd ultimo, in- 
structing you to hold yourself in readiness to proceed on a mis- 
sion to the King of Dahomey, I have now to acquaint you that 
the presents with which you will be entrusted for the King, and 
the instructions for yom- guidance, will be forwarded to you by 
the packet which leaves Liverpool with the African mails on the 
23rd of August, and you will therefore make your aiTangements 
accordingly. 

I am. Sir, 
Your most obedient humble Servant, 

(Signed) Eussell. 



PREFACE. XV 

List of Presents forwarded to Captain Burton by packet of 
the 24th August, 1863, for presentation to the King of Da- 
homey. 

One forty feet circular crimson silk Damask Tent with Pole 
complete (contained in two boxes). 

One richly embossed silver Pipe with amber mouth-piece, in 
morocco case. Two richly embossed silver Belts with Lion and 
Crane in. raised relief, in morocco cases. Two silver and partly 
gil*" Waiters, in oak case. One Coat of Mail and Gauntlets. (Oon- 
tainea ii one deal case, addressed to Captain Burton, H. B. M.'s 
Consul for the Bight of Biafra, West Coast of Africa.) 

September, however, was hardly- the month to be 
preferred for crossing the Great Agrime Swamp, and 
my health required a change of air before submitting 
to the peine forte et dure of a visit to a West African 
King. A few weeks upon the South Coast, in the 
dehcious " Ca9imbo,"* soon brought me up to working 
mark, and the following pages will tell the rest. 

In Chapter XIX., I have taken the liberty of per- 
sonally addressing my friend Dr. Hunt, author of " The 
Negro's Place in Nature." He has called for the 
results of my humble experience — I had written the 
remarks before seeing his able and graphic paper — and 
I have done my best to aid him in dispersing the mists 

* The cloudy (but not rainy) season in Angola and on the Congo 
River, lasting from May to September. 



XYi PREFACE. 

with which " mere rhetoric of a political and religious 
nature " has invested the subject. 

Some excuse may be expected for the length of the 
Appendix : the object has been to supply the Public 
with as complete a picture of present Dahome as my 
materials, and my capability of using them, have per- 
mitted. The items are as follows : — 

I. Itinerary, from Whydah to Agbome (corrected by 
Captain George, R.N., Royal Geographical Society of 
London). 

II. List of expenses at Agbome. Mr. Bernasko's 
account current with Captain Burton, Her Majesty's 
Commissioner, Dahomey, from December 8th, 1863, to 
February 26th, 1864. 

III. Reprints of previous modern notices. 

A. Extract of a letter from the Reverend Peter W. 
Bernasko, Native Assistant Missionary, dated Whydah, 
November 29th, 1860, and describing the Grand Cus- 
toms. (" "Wesleyan Missionary Notices," February 
25th, 1861). 

B. Despatches from Commodore Wilmot respecting 
his visit to the King of Dahomey in December, 1862,. 
and January, 1863, and describing the Platform 
Sacrifice. 



PREFACE. xvii 

C. Dahomy, its People and Customs, by M. Jules 
Gerard, describing the Oyo Custom of Kana. 

IV. A Catalogue of the Dahoman Kings, with the 
dates of their various exploits, their "strong names," 
and the events of their reigns. It is merely produced 
as documens pour servir : I have not only analysed 
the several histories, but have gathered from the natives 
traditions and explanations of the royal titles. More- 
over, I wish these volumes to be a picture rather of the 
present than of the past. 

The Pages now offered to the Public are the result 
of a three months' personal study of Dahome, my work 
extending over the day, and often half through the 
night. I may venture to assert that, by comparing its 
results with the authors before cited, the labour ex- 
pended upon this monogram will become apparent. 

It only remains for me to apologise for the involun- 
tary errors which will doubtless be found in the follow- 
ing volumes, and to hope that I may, at some future 
time, find an opportunity of correcting them. 



BuEJTA Vista, Eeenabdo Po, 
April 20, 1864."" 



CONTENTS. 



CHAPTER I. 

PAGK 
I FAT.Ti m LOYE WITH PeENAJSTDO Po 7 

CHAPTER II. 

I DO XOT BECOME "FAST ErIENDS " WITH LAGOS . . . 25 

CHAPTEE in. 
We entee Whydah in State 29 

CHAPTEE IV. 
A Walk kouitd Whydah 5 

CHAPTEE V. 
Eeoit Whydah to AjjladX, the Haif-vay House , .117 

CHAPTER YI. 
Eeom Adlada to Ageime 166 

CHAPTEE YII. 

Smaix Eeception at Ageime, and Aeeival at Kajsta, the 

Eing's Oohntey QrAETEES 183 



2—6 CONTENTS. 

CHAPTER YIII. 

PAGE 

The Procession 201 

CHAPTEE IX. 
The Eeception 231 

CHAPTEE X. 
The Mabch to Agbome 276 

CHAPTEE XI. 
The King enters his Capital 303 

CHAPTEE XII. 
The Presents are delivered 321 

CHAPTEE XIII. 

Oe the Grand Customs and the Annual Customs gene- 
rally 343 

CHAPTEE XIV. 
The King's "So-sin Custom" 348 



A MISSION TO GELELE, 

KING OF DAHOME. 



CHAPTER I. 

I FALL m LOVE WITH FEENAKDO PO. 

This fertile soil, which, enjoys a perpetual spring, is considered a 
strong prison, as the land of spectres, the seat of disease, and the 
mansion of death. 

Said of Bengal hy its Moslem conquerors. 

A Ilha Formosa, the lovely island of Fernando Po, 
has, like most beauties, two different, indeed two oppo- 
site, aspects. 

About Christmas time she is in a state deeper than 
rest, — 

A kind of sleepy Venus seemed Dudu. 

Everything, in fact, appears enwrapped in the rapture 
of repose. As the ship glides from the rolling, blustering 
Bights into that wonderfully still water, men come on 
deck feeling they know not what ; fela parte a Vamour, 



8 MISSION TO GELELE. 

as the typical Frenchman remarks. The oil-hke swell is 
too lazy to break upon the silent shore, the wind has 
hardly enough energy to sigh, the tallest trees nod and 
bend drowsily downwards, even the grass is, from 
idless, averse to wave : the sluggish clouds bask in the 
soft light of the sky, while the veiled sun seems in no 
hurry to run his course. Here no one would dream, as 
does our modern poet, of calling nature " sternly fair." 
If such be the day, conceive the cloister-like stillness 
of a night spent in the bosom of Clarence Cove. 
Briefly, Fernando Po, in the dry weather, is a Castle of 
Indolence, a Land of the Lotophagi, a City of the 
Living-Dead, 

But as I saw her in November, 1863, and as she 
had been for the six months preceding, the charmer 
was not to be recognised by that portrait. A change 
had come over her Madonna-like face — as is sometimes 
witnessed in the " human organism." The rainy season 
had set in earlier than usual ; it had opened in May, 
and in November it was not ended. A heavy arch of 
nimbus, either from the north-east or the north-west, 
gathered like a frown on the forehead of the dull grey 
firmament. Presently the storm came down, raving 
like a jealous wife. In a few moments it burst with a 



I PALL IN LOYE WITH FERNANDO PO. 9 

flood of tears, a sheet of " solid water," rent and blown 
about by raging, roaring gusts, that seemed to hurry 
from every quarter in the very ecstasy of passion. 
Baleful gleams of red thready lightning flashed like 
the glances of fury in weeping eyes, and deafening 
peals of thunder crashed overhead, not with the steady 
rumble of a European tempest, but sharp, sudden, and 
incisive as claps of feminine objurgation between fits of 
sobbing. These lively scenes were enacted during half 
the day, and often throughout the night : they passed off 
in lady-like -sulks, a windless fog or a brown-blue veil 
of cloud settling hopelessly over the face of heaven 
and earth, till the unappeased elements gathered strength 
for a fresh outburst. 

Amidst this caprice, these coquetries of the " Beau- 
tiful Island," man found it hard to live, but uncom- 
monly easy to die. Presently all that was altered, and 
the history of the metamorphosis deserves, I think, to 
be recorded. 

The shrew was tamed by an inch and a half of 
barometric altitude. The dictum of the learned Dr.. 
"Waitz, the Anthropologist, no longer holds good.* 

* " There are many districts in Africa where strangers, and especially 
Europeans, can neither live nor become acclimated, whilst the natives 

B 2 



10 A MISSION TO GELELE. 

When I first landed on this island (September, 1861), 
Sta. Isabel, nh Clarence, the lowland town and harbour, 
was the only locality inhabited by the new Spanish 
colony. Pallid men were to be seen sitting or lolling 
languid in their verandahs, and occasionally crawhng 
about the grass-grown streets, each with a cigarette 
hanging to his lower lip. They persistently disappeared 
in the dry season, whilst their example was followed 
by the coloured " hberateds " and the colonists during 
the " balance " of the year. H. B. M.'s Consulate is 
situated unpleasantly near a military hospital : break- 
fast and dinner were frequently enlivened by the 
spectacle of a something covered with a blanket being 
carried in, and after due time a something within a 
deal box being borne out on four ghastly men's shoul- 
ders. And strangers fled the place like a pestilence : 
sailors even from the monotonous " south coast," 
felt the ennui of Fernando Po to be deadly — grave- 
like. 

At length Yellow Fever, the gift of the "Grand 
.Bonny," which was well-nigh depopulated, stalked over 

enjoy good health. Such is the case in some parts of the Darfur the 
greater portion of Kordofan, Fernando Po, and Zanzihar." Anthropo- 
logy of Primitive Peoples, vol. i., excellently translated by J, Frederick 
Collingwood, Esq., F.A.S. London, Triibner and Co., 1863. 



I PALL IN LOVE WITH FERNANDO PO. 11 

the main in March, 1862, and in two months he swept 
oflf 78 out of a grand total of 250 white men.* 

The "Beautiful Island" was now going too far. 
Seeing that the fever did not abate, H. E. the Governor 
de la Gandara determined to try the effects of altitude. 
A kind of " quartelillo " — infirmerie or baraque — was 
hastily run up in twelve days, beginning from June 
22nd, 1862, by M. Tejero, Commandant of Mihtary 
Engineers. The site, a kind of shelf over the village 
of Basile, about 400 metres above sea-level, received 
the name of Sta. Cecilia. On the day after its com- 
pletion, July 6 th, nineteen penitentiaires, or political 
prisoners, the survivors of some thirty men that had 
died of yellow fever in the hulks, were transferred to 
the new quarters ; two were lost by attacks of the 
same disease contracted on the seaboard, the rest of 
those condemned to travaux fords kept their health, 

* On Aug. 28, 1859, 155 white soldiers, young and picked men, who 
had shipped at Cadiz, July 16, 1859, arrived at Fernando Po, under H. 
E. the Governor de la Gandara, who is now fighting his country's hat- 
ties in Santo Domingo. 

On July 16, 1863, after concluding their three years' service, forty- 
seven of these men returned to Spain. I have heen unable to procure 
statistics of their health or sickness since that period. 

Of the 108 casualties, or more than two-thirds of the original number, 
thirty-five men died, mostly during the first eighteen months : the other 
seventy, three were sent home invalided. 



12 A MISSION TO GELELE. 

and were returned to their homes in November, 
1862. 

This old bar ague is now nearly always empty, being 
converted into a kind of lodging-house. Its dimensions 
are 11-50 metres long, by 6 broad, and raised on piles 
1"50 high ; the rooms are three in number, one large, 
of 6 metres by 4"25, and the other two of 4'25 metres 
by 3. 

Seeing the excellent result of that experiment, H. E. 
Sr. D. Lopez de Ayllon, the present Governor, to whom 
these pages are respectfully inscribed, determined to 
increase operations. Major Osorio, of the Engineers, 
was directed to build a maison caserne, intended to 
accommodate white soldiers not wanted for duty at 
Sta. Isabel. It was begun March 22nd, finished Sep- 
tember 5th, and opened November 30th, 1863, The 
rez de chaussee lodges forty men, the second story as 
many more, whilst the first stage has rooms for the 
Governor, his aide-de-camp, and four officers. Besides 
these two lumber houses, there are tolerable stables for 
horses and mules, good roads well bridged, and a 
channel of mountain water, which the white soldiers, 
who can work in the sun with the thinnest of caps, 
have derived from the upper levels. About thirty men 



I FALL IN LOVE WITH FEENANDO PO. 13 

■were sent here. Their number has varied but little. 
During the five months from December, 1863, to April, 
1864, though there have been sporadic local cases of 
simple intermittent fever — March, 1864, shows only 
one — and though dangerous diseases have been brought 
up from the lowlands, not a death has occurred. 

Thus, then, the first sanitarium in Western Africa 
owes its existence to the Spanish Colony, that dates 
only from the middle of 1859. As far back as 1848, 
the late Captain Wm. Allen and Dr. Thompson, of 
the Niger Expedition, proposed a sanitary settlement at 
Victoria, on the seaboard below the Camaroons Moun- 
tain, a site far superior to Fernando Po. Since their 
time, the measure has been constantly advocated by 
the late Mr. M. Laird. Eppur non si muove — Bri- 
tannia. She allows her "sentimental squadron" to 
droop and to die without opposing the least obstacle 
between it and climate. A few thousands spent at 
Camaroons or Fernando Po would, calculating merely 
the market value of seamen's lives, repay themselves 
in as many years. Yet not a word from the Great 
Mother ! 

When I compare St. Louis of Senegal with Sierra 
Leone, or Lagos with Fernando Po, it is my conviction 



14 A MISSION TO GELELE. 

that a tempoiary something is going wrong with the 
popular constitution at home. If not, whence this 
want of energy, this new-born apathy 1 Dr. Watson 
assures us that disease in England has now assumed an 
asthenic and adynamic type. The French said of us 
in the Crimea that Jean Boule had shattered his nerves 
with too much tea. The Registrar-General suggests 
the filthy malaria of the overcrowded hodiernal English- 
town as the fomes malorum. The vulgar opinion is, 
that since the days of the cholera the Englishman 
(physical) has become a different being from his proto- 
type of those fighting times when dinner-pills were 
necessary. And we all know that 

C'est la constipation que rend I'homme rigonreux. 

Whatever th3 cause may be, an Englishman's lot is at 
present not enviable, and his children have a Herculean 
task " cut an 1 dry " before them. 

Nothing can be more genial and healthful than the 
place where I am writing these lines, the frame or 
plank-house luilt by D. Pelion, of the Woods and 
Forests, now absent on private affairs in Spain. The 
aneroid shows 29 instead of 30-1 — 30-4 inches and 
the altitude does not exceed 800 feet. Yet after 
sunrise the thermometer (F.) often stands at 68° 



I PALL IN LOVE WITH FERNANDO PO. 15 

reddening the hands and cheeks of the white man. 
We can take exercise mentally and bodily without that 
burst of perspiration which follows every movement in 
the lowlands, and we can repose without the sensation 
which the " Beebee " in India defined as " feeling like a 
boiled cabbage." The view from the balcony facing 
north is charming. On the right are the remnants of 
a palm orchard ; to the left, an avenue of bananas 
leads to a clump of tropical forest ; and on both sides 
tumbles adown the basaltic rocks and stones a rivulet 
of pure cold mountain water — most delightful of baths 
— over which the birds sing loudly through the live- 
long day. In front is a narrow ledge of cleared ground 
bearing rose-trees two years old and fifteen feet high, 
a pair of coffee shrubs, bowed with scarlet berries, 
sundry cotton plants, by no means despicable, and a 
cacao, showing what the island would have been but 
for the curse of free labour.* Beyond the immediate 

* "Without slaves," says Koeler (Notizen iiber Bonny), "the fertile 
tropical valleys would be unproductive and deserted, as white men 
cannot labour there in the open air." The question is, whether the 
world has been sufficiently cleared to enable men to dispense with forced 
labour ? At Fernando Po, the hire of a Kruman, who does about one- 
flfth of an Englishman's work, amounts, all things included, to thirty 
shillings a week. The expression in the text is not too strong. Mr. 
Lee, Professor of Agricultural Chemistry in the university of Georgia, 
estimates the manual requirements of the Southern States at one million 



16 A MISSION TO GELELE. 

foreground there is a slope, hollowed in the centre, and 
densely covered with leek-green and yellow-green 
grasses of the Holcus kind now finding favour in 
England, and even here fragrant, when cut, as northern 
hay. The drop is sufficiently abrupt below to fall 
without imperceptible gradation into the roUing plain, 
thick and dark with domed and white-boled trees, which 
separate the mountain from the Ethiopic main. The 
white houses of Sta. Isabel glisten brightly on the 
marge ; beyond it the milky-blue expanse of streaked 
waters stretches to the bent bow of the horizon ; and 
on the right towers, in soHtary majesty, a pyramid 
of Nature's handiwork, "Mongo ma Lobah," the 
Mount of Heaven,* now capped with indistinct cloud, 
then gemmed with snow,f and reflecting from its 
golden head the gorgeous tropical sunshine; whilst 
over all of earth and sea and sky there is that halo of 
atmosphere which is to landscape what the light of 
youth is to human loveliness. 

of men for twenty years, and regards it as "providential that- there 
should be so much unemployed power in human muscles in Western 
Africa." 

* The topmost peak of the Camaroons Mountain, so called by the 
natives. 

t To talk of snow so near the Line ! The erudite Mr. Coolev will 
certainly swear it is dolomite. 



I FAIL IN LOVE "WITH FEENANDO PO. 17 

And as night first glooms in the East, the view 
borrows fresh beauties from indistinctness. The varied 
tints make way for the different shades of the same 
colour that mark the several distances, and hardly 
can the eye distinguish in the offing land from sea. 
Broken lines of mist-rack rise amongst the trees of the 
basal plain, following the course of some streamlet, like 
a string of giant birds flushed from their roosts. The 
moon sleeps sweetly upon the rolling banks of foliage, 
and from under the shadowing trees issue weird fan-- 
tastic figures, set off by the emerald light above. In 
the growing silence the tinkle of the two rivulets 
becomes an audible bass, the treble being the merry 
cricket and the frog praying lustily for rain, whilst the 
palms whisper mysterious things in their hoarse bari- 
tone. The stars shine bright, twinkling as if frost were 
in the air ; we have eliminated the thick stratum of 
atmosphere that overhangs the lowlands, and behind us, 
in shadowy grandeur, neither blue nor brown nor pink, 
but with a blending of the three, and sometimes 
enwrapped in snowy woolpack so depse as to appear 
sohd against the deep azure, the Pico Santa Isabel, the 
highest crater in the island, rises softly detached from 
the cirrus-flecked nocturnal sky. 



18 A MISSION TO GELELE. 

Life, as an American missionary remarked, is some- 
what primitive at Buena Vista, but it is not the les^ 
pleasant. An hour of work in my garden at sunrise 
and sunset, when the scenery is equally beautiful, hard 
reading during the day, and after dark a pipe and a 
new book of travels, this is the " fallentis semita vitcB " 
which makes one shudder before plunging once more 
into the cold and swirling waters of society — of civi- 
lization. My " niggers" are, as Krumen should be, 
employed all the day long in clearing, cutting, and 
planting — it is quite the counterpart of a landowner's 
existence in the Southern States. Nothing w.ill pre- 
vent them caUing themselves my " children," that is to 
say, my slaves ; and indeed no white man who has 
lived long in the outer tropics can prevent feeling that 
he is pro tempore the lord, the master, and the pro- 
prietor of the black humanity placed under him. It is 
true the fellows have no overseer, consequently there is 
no whip ; punishment resolves itself into retrenching 
rum and tobacco ; moreover, they come and go as they 
please. But if a little "moral influence" were not 
apphed to their lives, they would be dozing or quarrel- 
ling all day in their quarters, and twanging a native 
guitar half the night, much to their own discomfort and 



1 FALL IN LOVE WITH FEENANDO PO. 19 

more to their owner's. Consequently I keep them to 
their work. 

At certain hours the bugle-call from Santa Cecilia 
intimates that all about me is not savagery. And 
below where the smoke rises " a-twisten blue " from the 
dense plantation of palms, lies a rich study for an 
ethnologist — Basile, the Bub6 village. No white man 
has lived long enough amongst this exceptional race 
of Fernandians to describe them minutely, and, as a 
rule, they have been grossly and unjustly abused.* 
A few lines will show the peculiarities which distinguish 
them from other African tribes. 

The Bube — who, as may be proved by language, is 
an aborigine of the mainland — has forgotten his origin. 



* Bosman (A New and Accurate Description of the Coast of Guinea, 
translated into English, 1705) seems to have led the way, and others 
have repeated him. " The island of Fernando Po is inhabited by a savage 
and cruel sort of people, which he that deals with ought not to trust. I 
neither can nor will say more of them." 

It is hard to discover whence was derived the word Adiyah or Eediyah, 
which all writers have copied from the Niger Expedition of Messrs. 
Allen and Thompson, and have applied to the Bub6 race. The fact is, the 
Femandian, as might be expected, has no national name, for " adiyah" 
is probably derived from adios, arios, aroa, the salutation borrowed from 
the old Spanish colony long extinct. Bube (not "bubi," or "booby,") 
means, not " friend," but "man," a frequent address as the Castilian 
honibre, and thus assumed by strangers as the popular appellation. In 
"High Bub6," "adyah" means "the moon," which in the vulgar is 
" ballepo." 



20 A MISSION TO GELBLE. 

and he wisely gives himself no trouble about it. If you 
ask him whence he comes, he replies " from his mother ;" 
whither he goes, and he answers "to Drikhatta ra 
Busala'be* if a bad man," and "to Lubakko 'pwa (the 
sky) if he has been a good Bube." He has a conception 
of and a name for the Creator, Rupe or Brupe, but he 
does not perplex himself with questions of essence and 
attribute, personality and visibility. Perhaps in this 
point too he shows good sense. He is also, you may 
be sure, not without an evil principle, Busala 'be, who 
acts as it were chief of police. 

Coming down from the things of heaven to those of 
earth, the Fernandian is " aristocratic," an out-and-out 
conservative ; no oldest Tory of the old school can 
pretend to rival him. But in many points his attach- 
ment to ancient . ways results not from prejudice, but 
from a tradition founded upon sound instinct. He 
will not live near the sea for fear of being kidnapped, 
also because the over-soft air effeminates his frame. 
He refuses to build higher up the mountains than 2000 
to 3000 feet, as his staff of life, the palm and the plan- 
tain, will not flourish in the raw air and rugged ground. 

* Literally, kingdom (drikhatta) of the devil (bad ghost). So, the 
sky or heaven is also called Drikhatta ra Eupe, i.e.. Kingdom of God. 
Possibly these are European ideas grafted upon the African mind. 



I FALL IN LOVE WITH PEENANDO PO. 21 

He confines himself therefore to the exact zone in which 
the medical geographer of the present age would place 
him — above the fatal fever level, and below the line 
of dysentery and pneumonia. His farm is at a 
distance from his cottage, to prevent domestic animals 
finding their way into it ; his yam fields, . which 
supply the finest crops, are as pretty and as neatly 
kept as vineyards in Burgundy, and he makes the 
best "topi" or palm toddy in Western Africa. His 
habitation is a mere shed without walls : he is a 
Spartan in these matters. Nothing will persuade 
him to wear, beyond the absolute requirements of 
decency, anything warmer than a thin coat of palm oil : 
near the summit of the mountain, 10,000 feet above sea 
level, I have offered him a blanket, and he has preferred 
the fire. His only remarkable, somewhat " fashionable "- 
looking article of dress is an extensive wicker hat 
covered with a monkey skin, but this is useful to pre- 
vent tree snakes falling upon his head. He insists 
upon his wife preserving the same toilette, minus the 
hat — oh, how wise ! If she does not come up to his 
beau ideal of fidelity, he cuts off, first her left hand, 
then her right, lastly, her throat ; a very just sequence.* 

• In Northern Europe and America the iBJured husband kills the 



22 A MISSION TO GELELE. 

He is not a slave nor will he keep slaves ; he holds 
them to be a vanity, and justly, because he can work for 
himself. He is no idler ; after labouring at his farm, he 
will toil for days to shoot a monkey, a "philantomba" 
{alias " fritamba"), or a flying squirrel. Besides being a 
sportsman, he has his manly games, and I should not 
advise every one to tackle him with quarter-stafi"; his 
alpenstock is a powerful and a well-wielded weapon. 
Though so highly conservative, he is not, as some might 
imagine, greatly destitute of intelligence : he pronounces 
our harsh and difficult English less incorrectly than 
any West African tribe, including the Sierra Leonite. 
Brightest of all is his moral character : you may 
safely deposit rum and tobacco — that is to say, gold and 
silver — in his street, and he will pay his debt as surely 
as the Bank of England.* And what caps his worldly 
wisdom, is his perfect and perpetual suspiciousness. 
He never will tell you his name, he never receives you 

lover ; in Asia and Southern Europe he kills the wife. Which proceed- /t 
ing is the more sensible ? Can any man in his senses believe in the 
seduction of a married woman ? Credat Creswell Creswell ! 

* I allude of course to the BubS in his natural and unsophisticated 
state, not to him as corrupted by Europeans and Krumen. Mr. Win- 
wood Reade, the author of an amusing and picturesque book, " Savage 
Africa," unfortunately visited only "Banapa," one of the worst speci- 
mens of a Bube village. As a rule, the Fernandian has little of the 
ignoble appearance that characterizes the true Negro. 



I FALL IN LOVE WITH FERNANDO PO. 23 

as a friend, he never trusts you, even when you bring 
gifts ; he will turn out armed if you enter his village 
at an unseasonable hour, and if you are fond of collect- 
ing vocabularies, may the god of speech direct you ! 
The fact is, that the plunderings and the kidnappings 
of bygone days are burned into his memory : he knows 
that such things have been, and he knows not when 
they may again be. So he confines himself to the 
society of his native hamlet, and he makes no other 
intimacies, even with the fellowmen whose village smoke 
he sees curling up from the neighbouring dell.* 

* * * -» * ■!'!• 

After two years of constant quarrelling the beautiful 

* Some of the kidnapping tales that still linger on this coast, show the 
straits into which, at times, men were driven for a cargo. At Annobom, 
where the people are Negro-Portuguese, they are ever looking forward 
to hearing mass from the mouth of a priest. A Spaniard learning this, 
dressed up a pair of ecclesiastics, landed them, and whilst the function 
was proceeding, seized the whole congregation, and carried them tri- 
umphantly to market. 

The following communication will show the value of Fernandian 
cotton. But, alas! labour is at 30s. per week: — 

" COITON SUPPLY ASSOCIATION. 

"Offices: No. 1, Newall's Buildings, 

"Manchester, February, 1864, 
" Captain E. F. Burton, H. B. M. Consul, 
" Fernando Po. 
"Sir, — Your communication, with the two samples of cotton, had 
the due attention of our Committee, and I have now to hand you their 
report upon the latter. 



24 A MISSION TO GELELE. 

island and I are now " fast friends." It is perhaps as 
well to " begin with a little aversion." '■' 

" 1st. Fernando Po. — Dull in colour, clean, staple fine, and fair length ; 

value 28(^. per lb. 
"2nd. Congo. — Dull brown colour, staple coarse and weak; value 
21d. per lb. 
Middling Orleans Cotton being worth 28J(^. per lb. 
"The Committee would be glad to learn that such cotton as your 
samples, especially the first, could be sent from Fernando Po in large 
quantities to this district, where trade is languishing, and our popula- 
tion so severely sufiering for want of a supply of such cotton. 

" "We shall be glad to have any further particulars respecting the pro- 
duction of your immediate neighbourhood, and the price at which such 
as your sample No. 1 can be collected, and any other information you 
may be kindly disposed to furnish. 

"I am. Sir, 

" Yours respectfully, 
(Signed) " Isaac "Watts, Secretary." 

* The following sick list is taken from official documents, compiled at 
Fernando Po. Of thirty invalids, sent up from the lowlands in Novem- 
ber, 1863, there suffered from — 

Fever (simple and intermittent) 

,, (remittent malignant) 

,, (intermittent malignant) 
Dysentery .... 
Various .... 

Total .. 22 22 18 1 

It must be observed that in all cases, except those of simple inter- 
mittents, the disease was contracted in the lowlands ; moreover, that of 
sixty-three, the grand total, not a patient died. 



Dec. 
14 


Jan. 
16 


3Fob. 

u 


March. 
1 


3 


2 


2 











1 





3 


1 


2 





2 


3 


2 






CHAPTER 11. 

I DO NOT BECOME "FAST FEIENDs" WITH LAGOS. 

On Not. 29, 1863, I embarked on board H. M. S. S. 
Antelope, Lieut.-Commander Allingham. A red en- 
sign at tbe fore, manned yards, and a salute of 17 
guns, banished from my brain all traces of Buena Vista 
and the Bube. Our cruize was eventless. We of 
course fell in with a tornado off Cape Formoso, the 
gentle projection in the hypothenuse of the Nigerian 
Delta. The good old iron paddle-wheeler, however, 
though no "skimmer of the seas," advanced at ease 
through the impotent blast. On Dec. 2, we found our- 
selves rolling in the roads of pestilential Lagos, our 
lullaby the sullen distant roar, whilst a dusky white gleam 
smoking over the deadly bar in the darkening horizon 
threatened us with a disagreeable landing at the last, 
the youngest, and the most rachitic of Great Britain's 
large but now exceedingly neglected family of colonies. 



26 A MISSION TO GELELE. 

H. M. S. S. Investigator was signalled for on the 
next da}'; the Handy being as usual "unhandy" — 
broken down. The acting commander of the former, 
Mr. Adlam, kindly gaA'e me an in-passage to ship 
the presents sent by the Foreign Office for the King 
of Dahome. 

The town, however, and the townspeople as well, 
wore a new and greatly improved appearance, the work 
of the great benefactor of West African cities, " General 
Conflagration." Three fires had followed one another 
in regular succession through November, December, and 
January, 1863 ; and the fire god will continue to "rule 
the roast " till men adopt some more sensible style of 
roofing than thatch and " Calabar mats." There was 
also a distinct improvement in local morals since the 
days when the charming English spinster landed here, 
and was obliged by the excited and non-culottees natives 
to be escorted back to her papa's ship by two gentle- 
men with drawn swords. 

Nudity has been made penal. Where impaled 
corpses of men and dogs scandalized eye and nose, and 
where a foul mass of hovel crowded down to the beach, 
now runs a broad road, a Marine Parade, the work of 
the first governor, Mr. Coskry, during his short but 



I DO NOT BECOME " FAST ]?RIENDS" WITH LAGOS. 27 

useful reign. Finally, Sydney Smith's highest idea of 
civil government, a street constable, every\Yhere glad- 
dens the Britisher's sight. In France we should have 
seen the piou-piou; in England they prefer the " peeler ;" 
and the peeler-governed scoff and wag the head at the 
piou-piou-ruled, and vice versa. I confess to holding 
that British Praetorian, the policeman, to be like the 
beefsteak, and Professor HoUoway's pill — a bore, a world- 
wide nuisance : the " meteor flag of England " never 
seems to set upon him. Camoens might have ad- 
dressed him as another Sebastian : — 

Thou being dread ! upon 'whose glorious sway 
The orient sun first pours his quiok'ning beam, 

And views thee from the heaven's middle way, 
And lights thee smiling with his latest gleam. 

at caetera. 

On the other hand, nothing could be worse than the 
animus between white and black and white-black; it 
was systematically aggravated by the bad prints of the 
coast, and by the extra-philanthropic portion of the 
fourth estate at home. The place is also, I have said, 
pestilential ; out of a grand total of seventy Europeans, 
not less than nine have lately died in thirteen days ; 
others are expected to follow, and no man is safe at 
Lagos for a week. Breathing such an air, with such 



28 A MISSION TO GELELE. 

an earth below them, with such a sun above them, and 
with such waters within them, it is hardly to be won- 
dered at that the Lagoonist's temper is the reverse of 
mild. 

Thus we arrived at an evil hour ; all stood in armed 
peace, alert for war ; and the hapless Investigator put 
the last strain on the back of Patience. Startled by the 
display of fight, I hastily collected the presents, whilst 
Mr. John Cruikshank, the Assistant-Surgeon, E.N., 
detailed on duty to Dahome, obliged me by laying in a 
few stores. On December 4th we hurried from the City 
of Wrath. The bar showed blinders only ; we would 
have crossed it had the breakers risen mountains high. 

On Saturday, December 5th, we anchored off noto- 
rious Whydah, a few hours too late to catch the last 
glimpse of the Rattlesnake's • top-gear. This was un- 
lucky. Commodore Wilmot, commanding West Coast 
of Africa, who, taking the warmest interest in the 
mission, had adopted every possible measure to forward 
its success, after vainly awaiting my coming for nearly 
a fortnight, was compelled by circumstances to steatn 
northward. Thus it was my fate to miss the only 
officer on the coast who knew anything about Dahome, 
and thus collation of opinion became impossible. 



CHAPTER III. 

WE ENTEK AVHYDAH IN STATE. 

The necessity of sending on a messenger to the 
King, who was preparing for his own Customs, and 
for my reception at Kana, detained H. M. S. Antelope 
till December 8th, when a special invitation returned 
to Whydah. 

For some days the weather had been too dark to 
permit a fair view of a country so much extolled by 
old travellers, and which Captain Thomas Phillips' * has 
described as the "pleasantest land in Guinea." But 
even under the clearest sky, with the present deadening 
influences, wheij the hand of the destroyer has passed 
over its towns and villages and fields, the traveller 
must not expect to find, like his brotherhood of the last 

* Journal of a Voyage to Africa and Barbadoes. By Thos. Phillips, 
Commander of the "Hannibal," of London, 1693-94. It is a quaint 
old log-book, and supplies a good account of independent Whydah. 



30 A MISSION TO GELELE. 

and even the present century, the "champaigns and 
small ascending hills beautified with always green shady 
groves of lime, wild orange, and other trees, and irri- 
gated with divers broad fresh rivers." And of the 
multitude of little villages that belonged to Whydah in 
the days of her independence, it may be said that their 
ruins have perished/' 

We landed as ceremoniously as I had embarked. 
The Commodore had dwelt long enough in Africa and 
amongst the Africans, properly to appreciate the efficacy 
of " apparatus " in the case of the first Government 
mission. Commander Ruxton, R.N., whose gun-vessel, 
the Pandora, still remained in the roads when H. M. S. 
Antelope, after firing her salute, departed, kindly 
accompanied us. After a rough and stormy night we 
landed, at 10 a.m., in a fine surf-boat belonging to 
Mr. Dawson, of Cape Coast Castle, ex-missionary and 
actual merchant at Whydah ; its strong knees and the 
rising cusps of the stem and stern acting as weather- 
boards, are required in these heavy seas that dash upon 

* Mr. Duncan, Vol. I. p. 185, found fine farms, six to seven miles 
from Whydah, with clean and comfortaMe houses, chiefly the work of 
Foolah and Eya (Oyo ?) captives returned from the Brazils. " This "— 
says that traveller—" would seem to prove that to this country slavery 
is not without its good as well as bad effects." 



WE ENTEE WHYDAH IN STATE. 31 

the ill-famed Slave-coast. We remarked a little external 
bar, separated by a deep longitudinal line, the home of 
sharks, from the steep sandy beach ; it must act as 
a break-water when the surf is not over-heavy. We 
landed amid song and shout, in the usual vray ; shun- 
ning great waves, we watched a " smooth," paddled in 
violently upon the back of some curhng breaker, till the 
boat's nose was thrown high and dry upon the beach ; 
were snatched out by men, so as not to be washed back 
by the receding water, and gained terra firma without 
suspicion of a wetting. Such, however, was not the 
case with our boxes ; indeed baggage rarely has such 
luck. On the beach we were met by the Rev. Peter 
W. Bernasko, native teacher, and principal of the 
Wesleyan Mission, Whydah, and taking refuge from 
the sun in a hut-shed belonging to Mr. Dawson, the 
party waited half an hour, till all had formed in 
marching order. 

The Hu-ta,* prai/a, or sea-beach of the " Liverpool of 

* Except wlien absolutely necessary for explanation, I shall not use, in 
writing native vocables, accents or diacritical marks : these serve only 
to puzzle the reader, without enabling him to reproduce the sound of 
foreign words. 

In the future dictionaries, however, the words must be distinguished by 
accents, not as in English, by spelling, e.g., " boy" and " buoy," " thy" 
and "thigh," and so forth. Amongst the kindred Egbas the native 



32 A MISSION TO GELELE. 

Dahome," is a sand-bank rising some 20 feet above 
sea level, and bright -with the usual salsolaceous plants. 
There are no dwelling-houses, nor do the white mer- 
chants of the upper town often sleep here. Seven 
several establishments of mat roofs and mud walls (the 
French being incomparably the best), serve for storing 
cargo, and for transacting business during the day. 
There are usually three to four ships rolling in the 
roads, and the more sanguine declare that the great 
slave port might, if she pleased, export 10,000 tons of 
palm oil (340,000^.) per annum. 

The Whydah escort of twenty men having duly 
saluted us with muskets, began the march towards 
their town, shouting and firing, singing and dancing. 
Our party was headed by a Kruman from Commander 
Ruxton's ship, carrying the white and red-crossed flag 
of St. George, attached to a boarding pike ; followed 
five hammocks with an interpreter, and my crew of 
six Krumen, armed, and brilliantly clad in " bargees'" 
red nightcaps, and variegated pocket-handkerchiefs, 
scanty as the old calepon at once happy Biarritz. We 



etymology of English words has run wild, e.g., " Tamahana" for Thomp- 
son, " Wiremu," as in New Zealand, for Williams, and " Piripi" for 
Philip. 



"WE ENTER "WHTDAH IN STATE. 33 

were exhorted to take and to keep patience, the task 
before us being a foretaste of what would sorely try us 
at the capital. 

A few yards of loose sand led out of the factory site 
to the Lagoon, a river-like but semi-stagnant stream, 
dotted with little green aits, running parallel with and 
close to the shore. Its breadth was 300 yards, and 
it wetted the hips, being deeper in December of the 
" dries," than I had seen it in June. For this reason 
some have suspected that it comes from the far north, 
where the rains which have now ended on the coast are 
still heavy. It is a boon to the peoplej who finding all 
their wants in its quiet waters, are not driven to tempt 
the ravenous sharks and the boisterous seas outside. 
The Lagoon fish is excellent ; there is a trout-like 
species with a very delicate flavour, and here, as on the 
Gold Coast, many prefer the lighter lenten diet to meat. 
Its oysters are good enough when cooked ; before being 
eaten raw, their insipidity should be corrected by keep- 
ing for some time in salt water,* and by feeding with 

* The Lagoon is salt only when the sea flows into it at high water. 
The people then wait till the tide has ebhed, and find on the mud- 
surface an efflorescence of salt, like hoar-frost, the work of rapid 
evaporation. It is scraped together, and packed in log huts for im- 
portation inland : most people prefer it in its original dirty and muddy 
state, others clean and whiten it by boiling. 



34 A MISSION TO GELELE. 

oatmeal. We saw piles of shells large enough for a 
thousand " grottos," and were told that this is the only 
lime and whitewash in the land. 

From the Lagoon we issued upon the De-nun,* or 
custom-house, also called Je-sin-nun, — "Salt waterside." 
The dirty clurnp of ragged mat-huts stands on a little 
sandy oasis, garnished with full and empty barrels, with 
whole and broken canoes and fishing nets, with porters at 
work, and with a few women sitting for sale before their 
little heaps of eatables, in fact, with all the parapher- 
nalia of an African fishing village, including noise and 
" Billingsgate." 

The two direct miles of swamp and sand between the 
De-nun and the town is a facsimile in miniature of the 
fifty toiles between Whydah and Agbome. It is a 
" duver," — a false coast : not a pebble the size of a pea 



* "De-nun," which Mr. Duncan (Vol. I. p. 282) writes " Dtheno," and 
evidently thinks to be a proper name, e.g., " the small kroom (a Gold 
Coast word) of Dtheno," is the " Bode" of the Egbas or Akns. The 
word "De" means custom-house dues; "nun," properly "mouth," or 
" side," is a monosyllable of many significations. De-gan is the custom- 
house "captain," who, as well as his guards, is locally called Decimerp, 
from the Portuguese. The reader will observe that the terminal n in 
Dahoman words, is invariably a pure nasal, and sounds like the French 
*' raiso«." In " Je-sin-nun," the first word signifies " salt," the second 
" water," and the nasal is so little defined, that an English ear would 
distinguish only " see," or '• si." 



WE ENTEE WHTDAH IN STATE. 35 

is to be found, which fact suflBces to prove the land to 
be the gift of the sea, not a sweep from the northern 
rocky mountains by rivers, rain, or gradual degradation. 
As in lower Yoruba generally, the sandy soil would be 
very unproductive but for the violent rains. The surface 
is a succession of " small downes," dorses and gentle 
ridges running parallel with the shore from east to west, 
not unlike the wrinkles or landwaves behind S. Paul de 
Loanda. Each rise is bounded north and south by low 
ground, almost on the Lagoon's level, with deep water 
during the rains, rarely quite dry, and at all times a 
fetid and malarious formation. These features in the 
upper country are often of considerable size, and three 
of them, as will be seen, were the natural frontiers of 
independent principalities. After the last water, a 
steady but almost imperceptible rise, like that from 
Kana to Agbome, leads to the town of Whydah. 
The road is detestable, and absolutely requires ham- 
mock men ; the slave-dealers have persuaded the autho- 
rities that whilst it is in tins state, their town will be 
less liable to unfriendly visits. 

Passing up a marigot or branch channel, worn down 
By porters' feet to a deep wet ditch, we soon reached 
the half-way place, a second sandy oasis, the site of 

B 2 



36 A MISSION TO GELELE. 

the village of Zumgboji.* It is a poor place — an en- 
larged edition of the De-nun — containing a few thatched 
mat-huts, with " compounds," or bartons, of the same 
material, and outlying fields of grain and vegetables, 
where Fetish cords acted hedges. We all descended 
from our hammocks, despite the heat, to greet the head 
Fetish-man, a dignitary fat and cosy as ever was the 
frate or the parson of the good old times. He stood 
with dignity under a white " Kwe-ho," the tent-um- 
brella, which here marks the caboceer ; it was somewhat 
tattered, because these spiritual men care not to make 
a show of splendour. He snapped fingers with us, after 
" Country custom," palm, never being applied to palm 
except by the Europeanised ; as throughout Yoruba 
the thumb and mid-index are sharply withdrawn on 
both sides after the mutual clasp, and this is repeated 
twice to four times, the former being the general 
number. After the greeting, he sat down upon what is 
called a Gold-Coast stool, cut out of a single block of 



* The Ffon, or Dahoman, a dialect of the great Yoruba family, has, 
like the Egba, or Abeokutan, language a G and a Gb, the latter at first 
inaudible to our ears, and difficult to articulate without long praotiQie. 
On the other hand, it has a P {e.g., in Po-su), as well as a Kp (fer 
instance, kpakpa, a duck), whereas the Egba possesses only the 
latter. 



■WE ENTEE WHTDAH IN STATE. 37 

wood,* whilst two young if not pretty wives handed to . 
us drinking water in small wine-glasses. This appears 
to be a thorough Dahoman peculiarity, which extends 
even to the Court. When pure f the element is con- 
sidered a luxury, it serves to prepare the mouth for 
something more genial, and it is a sign that treachery 
is not intended. We were then regaled with rum- 
Brazilian Caxa^a — too sour even for Ruxton's Kruman, 
who regarded the proceedings of the day with the 
goguenard air of a Parisian diminutif at a rustic 
Maires ball. Three toasts are demanded by ceremony, 
and they must be drunk standing. You bow, you 
choquez the glasses in continental style, and you 
exclaim, " Sin diyye ! " — " This is water ! " — when it 
is not — and your compotator responds " Sin ko " J — 
" (May the) Water (cool your) throat ! " In former 
days the spirits used to be poured from one glass into 

* When last in England, I saw sundry of these articles at the Turkish 
Bath in Jermyn Street, and very much out of place they looked. 

t At Whydah the wells are ahout thirty feet deep, and the water is 
bad : they want a lining of lime and charcoal at the bottom. In the 
English fort, according to Mr. Duncan (Vol. I. p. 120), after digging 
twenty feet deep, the soil was the same as at the top : at twelve feet they 
came upon a family sepulchre, decomposed human bones, and rusty 
anklets and armlets. 

X The in this word, as in Po-su, is sounded much like aw in the 
English " yawn." 



38 A MISSION TO GELELE. 

all the others, showing that they did not contain poison. 
The custom is now obsolete. Happily it is unnecessary 
to swallow all the trade stuff to which hospitality is 
here reduced ; you touch it with the lips, and hand it 
to a neighbour, who is certain to leave no heel-taps. 
If he be a common fellow, and you wish to be peculiarly 
countrified, you sign to him to kneel ; he opens his 
gape like a fledghng to its parent, without touching 
the cup or glass, and you toss the contents into his 
mouth, taking care that half of it should deluge his 
beard, if he has any.* 

After again snapping fingers, which, barbarous as it 
is, I infinitely prefer, near the Line, to hand-shaking, 
we remounted hammocks, and crossed the 400 yards 
of Zum'gboji's sandy islet. At the further end we 
again alighted to receive the compliments of the village 
captainf — here all are captains — a thin, and almost 
black old man, the type of a Dahoman Caboceer. He 
presented us with kola nut {Sterculia acuminata) and 
Malaguetta pepper {Aniomum granum paradisi), which 



* Some of the Traggish kings have made their servants lie flat 
on the ground, and swallow, in that position, a hottle of rum at a 
draught, 

t The Dahoman word is " gan : " our caboceer is a corruption of the 
Lusitano-African " caboceiro," a head man. 



WE ENTER WHYDAH IN STATE. 39 

eaten together greatly resemble the Pan supari or 
areca nut and betel leaf of the East Indians/'" After a 
few minutes we were once more allowed to advance. 
Another brownish-yellow water, with a black miry sole 
which called loudly for quinine, formed the path ; then 
we issued upon a hot open sandy and grass-cleared 
road, 15 feet broad, and leading with gradual up-slope 
to the town. In the middle of it is a dwarf ficus, 
called the "Captain's Tree," because here the first 
reception ceremony of merchant skippers has been 
from days of old and is still performed. The place 
around is named Agonji — the " Gonnegee " of the 
History — where enemies have so often encamped when 
attacking Whydah. Under the friendly shade we saw 
a table spread with a bit of white calico cloth, and 
around it the Mission boys had ranged chairs. Whilst 
expecting the town caboceers we had an opportunity 
of glancing at Whydah land. 

The country now wears an unwholesome aspect, and 
the smell reminds me of the Campagna di Roma, 
threatening fever and dysentery. The tall grass is not 

* The Preface to the History of Dahome, written by some unknown 
hand, and unworthy of the rest of the book, confuses them, informing us 
that the kola grows on lofty trees, and seemed to Bosman to he a species 
of the " areka or beetle." — p. is. 



40 A MISSION TO GELELE. 

yet ripe for burning ; in two months it will disappear, . 
rendering an ambuscade impossible, and allowing a 
pretty view of Why dab. Not a tenth of the land is 
cultivated ; the fallow system is universal, and when a 
man wants fresh ground he merely brings a little dash 
to the caboceer. The cultivators will begin in February 
to fire the stubbles, and the women will turn up the 
earth with hoes, and let the charred stalks and roots 
decay into manure. The seed is sown by two sowers ; 
one precedes, and drills the ground with a bushitian's 
stick or a hoe handle ; the second puts in the grain and 
covers it with the heel, an operation left to a third 
person if there be more than two. The seeds are not 
mixed. From three to four grains of maize, six to ten 
of Guinea corn, and two of beans, are deposited, against 
risk of loss, in the same hole. The first harvest takes 
place in September. The people will then at once 
burn, hoe, and sow again, getting in the second crop 
about December. In the interior the winter yield often 
does not ripen till January or February, and if the 
light showers of the season are deficient, it is burned 
b}'' the sun. The produce, though not counted, is said to 
be a hundredfold. This should satisfy the agriculturist, 
however covetous. Truly it is said that whilst the poor 



WE ENTEE WHYDAH IN STATE. 41. 

mail in the North is the son of a pauper, the poor man 
in the Tropics is the son of a prince. 

We were not kept waiting long ; at that time no 
great men lingered in Whydah. As usual the junior 
ranks preceded. Each party, distinct like our regi- 
ment, advanced under its own flag, closely followed by 
its band, composed of four kinds of instruments, which 
can hardly be called musical. The rattle is a bottle- 
shaped gourd covered with a netting of fine twine, to 
which are attached snake's vertebrae ; it is held in the 
right, with the neck downwards, and tapped against a 
thin strip of wood in the other hand. There are 
also decanter-shaped rattles of woven fibre, containing 
cowries, but these are not common. The drums are of 
many varieties, and all of unequal sizes, to vary the 
sounds : that which takes the lead is the hollowed log, 
described by all travellers from Jamaica to Zanzibar, 
and to African ears it is full of meaning as a telegram. 
The horn is a small scrivello with a large oblong hole 
near the point, so as to act as a speaking-trumpet, and 
pierced at the top, where the left thumb, by opening or 
closing it, converts it into a two-noted bugle. Mungo 
Park commends it for its resemblance to the human 
voice; an older traveller describes it as "making a 



42 A MISSION TO GELELE. 

grating bellowing noise, like a company of bulls or ass- : 
negros." The panigan,-'^ or African cymbal, as it is 
unaptly called, is generally a single unbrazed tongue- 
less bell, about a foot long, including the handle, which 
is either of solid iron or brass, and sometimes silver 
knobbed, or of pierced metal- work ; a thin bit of bamboo, 
some ten to eleven inches long, causes the tube to give 
out a small dead sound. It is the Chingufu of the 
South Coast, and my ears still tingle with its infliction 
on the lake Tanganyika. Sometimes this " gong-gong" 
is double, a shorter appendage being lashed or soldered 
to the larger instrument at the apices by an angle of 
45°, or a pair of similar-sized, bells are connected, by an 
arched iron bar. The player strikes first the long then 
the short tube, thus — ^ting ! tang ! or in double sets, one, 
two ! one, two ! This renders the sound different 
(similar to our public clocks in England when striking 
the quarters), and two notes become evident. Nor is 
the band complete without the voice accompaniment of 
fierce shouting and singing which would almost drown 
the organ of Haarlem. 

After each band came a shabby white um- 

* The performer is called Pani-gan (gong-gong), ho (beat or strike), 
and to (he who does). 



WE ENTER WHTDAH IN STATE. 43 

ibrella,* of -which there were five, denoting the number of 
colonels or soldier chiefs. They were distinguished by a. 
superior dress ; one man wore a dwarf pair of polished 
silver horns fastened to a lanyard fillet, and projecting 
above the organ of " Causality ."f They were followed 
each by a highlander's " tail," and the total may have 
amounted to 250 men. The greater number wore the 
uniform of the English or Blue Company, here called 
" Bru," indigo-dyed tunics or kilts extending to the 
knee and loosely closed over the breast, and cotton 
caps or white fillets, with sprawling crocodiles of azure 
hue sewn on to them, one on each side of the head. No 
two costumes were quite alike ; some had bark strips 
in their hair, round their waists, and fastened to their 
billy-cock hats ; others wore felts and straws ; whilst all 
had their Fetishes or charms — birds' claws and small 
wooden dolls smeared red as though with blood. The 
" Ffon Chokoto," the Egban Shokoto, and the East Indian 



* Throughout Africa, like Asia, it is a sign of dignity. Here it is 
figuratively used for the dignitary himself. " Seven umbrellas have 
fallen," means as many commanding officers have been killed. 

+ M. Wallon, Lieutenant de Vaisseau, who twice visited Agbonne 
in 1856 and 18oS, says that these horns are a sign of eunuchry, but they 
are not so. — Le Eoyaume de Dahomey (Revue Maritime et Coloniale, 
Aout, 1861 : a second part, containing that officer's journey to Agbonne, 
was promised, but has never, I believe, appeared,). 



4-1 A MISSION TO GELELE. 

Janghirs, femm-alia, or short drawers, hardly reaching* 
to the knee, must, by imperial order, be worn under the 
war tunic by all the soldiery, male and female ; some- 
times long cahco tights, in Moslem fashion, are seen. 
Their arms were tolerable muskets, kept in very good 
order, but of course invariably flint ; useless horse pistols, 
short swords, and African battle-axes with blades three 
fingers broad and the tangs set in the hafts. Their 
ammunition was supposed to be contained in home- 
made cartridge-boxes of European pattern or in ban- 
doleers, which acted for waist-belts, and comprised 
about a dozen wooden cylinders, like needle-cases, con- 
taining at least four times the amount of powder that 
would be used by us. 

The style of parade is one throughout the kingdom. 
Each several party advanced at a pas de cliarge, bend- 
ing low, and simulating an attack. This is here, as in 
Uganda, and amongst sundry tribes of Kafirs proper, 
an acknowledgment of greatness. Then the chief of 
each peloton came forward, snapped fingers with us 
as we sat on our chairs imder the tree, our guards 
ranged on the right, a mob of gazers — ^women scratch- 
ing and boys pulling — on the left, and an open space 
in front. This personal greeting over, he at once 



\VE ENTEK WHYDAH IN STATE. 45 

^returned to his men. Afterwards forming a rude 
close column, the only known manceuvre, the several 
parties perambulated us three times from right to left, 
and ended by halting in front.* There, with a hideous 
outcry, hopeless to describe, captain and men, with 
outstretched right arms, raised their sticks, bill-hooks, 
or muskets to an angle of forty-five degrees, the muzzle 
in the air, like a band of conspirators on the English 
stage. This is the normal salute, the " present arms " 
of Dahome. 

Right soon, fatigued with these serious manoeuvres, 
our warriors fell to singing and dancing, a passion 
amongst these people ; all are fanatici per la musica 
here. Ruxton, fresh from Canada, could not help 
remarking what a contrast a pow-wow of redskins 
■would have presented. The chorus had a queer ballet 
appearance, and a civiUsed composer might have bor- 
rowed a motive or two from the recitative. It became 
even more theatrical when the largest corps advanced, 
singing, and upholding in their left hands leafy 
branches, palm boughs, and long grasses, which were 

• In this circumambulation they showed us the left shoulder, and I 
afterwards observed that the right side is always presented to the king. 
So Mr. Duncan (Vol. I. j. 223) was told that on horseback he must not 
form circle to the right, that being a royal privilege. 



46 A MISSION TO GELELE. 

afterwards thrown upon and trampled to the ground. 
An energum^ne, with a horse-tail, the symbol of a 
professional singer or drummer, first shrieked extem- 
pore praises of the king and his guests, pointing the 
compUment by shaking the forefinger, as is done to 
naughty boys in England, and then the whole rout 
joined in the response. At times a chief or a warrior 
would plunge into the ring and perform a pas seul. 
The principal dances were two. The bravery dance 
consisted in grounding the musket, sword, or toma- 
hawk, to show that the foe had fallen. The performer, 
whose face must be blackened with gunpowder, like 
a musical and itinerant Ethiopian, then took a billhook 
with a broad blade ending in almost a circle, and. with 
,the tang let into the wood, a weapon more for show than 
for u^e ; or he preferred a crooked stick, like a short-cut 
houktte, or the third of an East Indian " latti," garnished 
with rows of .square-headed nails, or strengthened with 
a ring-like twist of iron. Thus armed, he went through 
the process of decapitation. It was conventional 
rather than an imitation of reality : the left hand was 
held with the edge upwards, and parallel to the body, 
moving in concert with the weaponed right, which 
made a number of short, drawing cuts, about two feet 



WE ENTER WHTDAII IN STATE. 47 

from the ground, whilst the legs and feet performed 
ecarts which are here indescribable. 

The other was the regular Dahoman dance. It is a 
tremendous display of agility, Terpsichore becoming 
more terrible than Mars. One month of such perform- 
ance would make the European look forward to a cam- 
paign as to a time of rest. The jig and the hornpipe 
are repose compared with it. It is grotesque as the 
Danse Chinoise, in which the French dancing-master of 
one's youth, of course an ancien militaire, used gravely 
to superintend the upturning of thumbs and! toes. 
The arms are held in the position preferred by the 
professional runner, the hands paddle like a swimming^ 
dog's paws, the feet shuffle or stamp as if treading^ 
water, the elbows are jerked so as nearly to meet 
behind, the back with a wonderful "jeu des omoplates," 
and the trunk joins in the play, the posteriors moving 
forwards and backwards to the pedal beat-time. The 
body is not, as in Asia, divided, as it were, into two, 
the upper half steady, and the lower taking violent 
exercise. Here, there is a general agitation of the 
frame, jerked in extreme movement to front and rear, 
-As all these several actions, varied by wonderful 
shakings, joltings, grimaces, and contortions, must be 



48 A MISSION TO GELELE. 

performed rapidlj^ simultaneously, and in perfect 
measure to the music, it is not only a violent, it is 
also a very difficult performance, exceeding even the 
Hindoo Nautch, or the Egyptian Alimeh's feats. As 
a calisthenic exercise, it is invaluable. The children 
begin as soon as they can toddle,. It is, perhaps, the 
most amusing thing in Dahome to see them apeing 
their elders.* 

The dancing was relieved at times by a little firing. 
Ammunition did not seem to superabound, and I de- 
tected several warmen privily borrowing from their 
neighbours, which showed that the defaulters had 
been making away with government stores. The 
parade ended with the normal drinking, after which we 
were allowed to remount and to proceed. 

A few yards from the " Captain's tree " led us to the 
southei'n extremity of the town. It is entered by a 
trivia ; the path to the right leads to the Portuguese 
fort, to the left is the French factory; whilst we 



* Mr. Duncan (Vol. I. p. 292) compares the shoulder motion with 
the gymnastic exercise used to expand the chest of the British soldier, 
but much quicker. The rest of the dance is a " rotatory movement 
of the hips, changing to a backward and forward motion of a most dis- 
gusting description." The Lifeguardsman was marvellous "nice" and 
" proper." 



"WE ENTER WHYDAH IN STATE. 49 

pursued our way straight in front, through the Ajudo 
Akhi-men, or Whydah market. Crowds were collected 
to see the king's " new strangers," who were bringing 
tribute to Dahome. The men bared their shoulders, 
doflfing their caps and large umbrella hats, whilst the 
women waved a welcome, and cried " Oku," to which 
we replied "Oku de 'u"* and "Atyan," the norma 
salutations of the country. Followed by an ever-increas- 
ing train, we passed a long gaunt structure, called 
the Brazilian Fort. In the open space before it, on 
civilised chairs, clad in white turbans, in loose blue 
dresses, and in snowy chemisettes, allowed to expose at 
least half the walnut-coloured back, and emitting, with 
the jauntiest air, volumes of cigar smoke, sat a number 
of "yaller" ladies. Conspicuous amongst them by 
her chevelure, which looked like a closely-fitting cap of 
Astrachan wool, ceasing abruptly without diminishing 

* In the Egba tongue, Oku,or Aiku (hence the trivial name, " Akoo 
people "), 13 a noun, " immortality," and an adjective, " not able to die, 
alive." Oku de 'u is the normal Dahoman salutation, Oku being under- 
stood to signify, "I compliment you," or "thanks"; whilst de 'u is 
explained by " still doing," or " still making." Various shortenings of 
the ■word are exchanged, e.g., oku de 'u, de 'u, 'u, 'u, till both saluter 
and salutee have had enough. At an early hour they say, " Oku de 'u 
Afwan," good morning ; or "Afwan dagbwe iV is it a good morning ? 
In the evening, "Oku de 'u baddan ! " good evening ! Atyan means 
"Are you well ?" 



50 A MISSION TO GELELE. 

towards the neck or temples,* -was the Bride of 
Whydah, the fair Sabina, of whom many have had 
cause to sing, — 

Neo fidum foemina nomen 
Ah, pereat ! didicifc fallere siqua virum. 

Arrived at the English Port, we dismounted at 
the place where the drawbridge has been, and, 
accompanied by the military chiefs, we repaired to 
a shady arbour in the middle of the enceinte, a 
normal feature in the European habitations of Why- 
dah. There we found a table thickly covered with 
bottles of water, sherry, gin, rum, and other chief- 
like delicacies. We drank with the visitors, as the 
custom is, to the health of Her Majesty of England, 
to the King of Dahome, and to our own "bonally." 
Half stifled with heat and human atmosphere, we were 
allowed, by ceremony, to retire at three p.m., five 
mortal hours spent in accomplishing the work of forty- 
five minutes ! The reception concluded with a salute. 
The chiefs fired in our honour forty muskets, powder- 
crammed to half way up the barrel, and we gave them 



* In marking this as a characteristic diflference between the hair 
growth of the negro and the white man, it must be remembered that in 
these regions, as in Asia, all manner of pile is removed either by the 
razor or the tweezers. 



WE ENTER WHTDAH IN STATE. Jl 

seventeen cannonades in return. The style of loading- 
great guns quite satisfied me why so ma,ny eyes and 
hands are missing at Whydah. The Sikhs, under 
Runjit Singh, used to astonish the weak mind of the 
British artillerist by the rapidity of their fire, sponging 
being dispensed with, and the powder baled into the 
muzzle from an open tumbril near the carriage.. But 
Asiatic recklessness is not to be compared with that of 
the negro. 

The landing rites concluded on the next day. 
About noon the troops marched up in loose column 
to the cleared space before the English Fort, and 
were formed, with abundant pushing, objurgation 
and retort, into the half of a square. They 
repeated the scene of yesterday : single braves 
advancing crouched to the combat, making violent 
improvise speeches, pointing forefingers, tossing heads, 
and spitting out their words, so that a stranger 
would suppose he was being by them grossly in- 
sulted. There was the usual decapitation, singing 
and dancing, chorus and ballet; even the small boys 
sprang into the arena, displaying admirable activity, 
and stamping with the grace and vigour of young 
bears. 

E 2 



52 A MISSION TO GELELE. 

The preliminary concluded, all flocked into the com- 
pound, and the civilian chiefs crowded the large room. 
The old Ka-wo,* -whose jurisdiction extends to the 
Ahwan-gan or war captains of all the maritime regions, 
preferred, after salutation, to sit on his stool of state, in 
a white night-cap, under an umbrella in the court-yard. 
The viceroy and the Chacha, or commercial chief, being 
absent at the capital, their places were occupied by 
three dignitaries. The first mandarin was the Ainadu,f 
acting-viceroy for Gelele, the present king, a short, 
dark, pock-marked man, with very little clothing. The 
second magistrate, who, if white-washed, might pass 
muster for a very ugly European,^ was Nyan-kpe (the 

* The word must not be confounded with " Gau," the commander-in- 
chief of the Dahoman army. The " Ka-wo " is the " Cankaow or General 
of Whydah," mentioned in the History, and spoken of as the " Cakawo 
amongst the Dahomans." The tradition is, that it was an honourable 
name given, long before the days of Agaja, the conqueror of Whydah, to 
a brave chief, who pursued the enemy over the Wo (pronounced Waw) 
Eiver, which divides Whydah from the Nago, or Agoni (i.e., Egbado, 
or lower Egba) country. Etymologically, the word is explained by Kd 
(for ka-ka, i.e., very much, or) long (i.e., following the foe till the) Wo 
(river). It has, since the conquest, been continued by the Dahoman 
kings. 

t This is the title of office ; the personal name in Dahome can hardly 
be said to exist ; it changes with every rank of the holder. The dignities 
seem to be interminable ; except amongst the slaves and the canaille, 
" handles " are the rule, not the exception, and most of them are here- 
ditary. 

X I may as well state at once, that amongst the pure negroes I have never 



WE ENTEE WHYDAH IN STATE. 53 

Lesser), who represented tlie acting-viceroy, for Gezo, 
the last king. I must observe here, without entering 
into details, that Dahoman officials, male and female, 
high and low, are always in pairs, — a system, methinks, 
which might be adopted by more civilised nations 
settled in Western Africa. Duplicates are required 
by climate, and whilst the invalid is at home on sick 
leave the convalescent might act for him. Here, 
however, the objects of the double tenure are twofold ; 
the new king does not wish hastily to degrade his 
father's old and unfaithful servants ; knowing their 
misdeeds, he neutralises their influence by appoint- 
ing as their aids younger men, of higher rank in 
the empire, and he ousts them when he reasonably 
can. Meanwhile, he supposes the aspirant to represent 
his own as distinguished from his sire's rule. The 
other motive is to keep the elder in check, and 
perhaps to give tlie younger, as candidate for the 
better appointment, an opportunity of mastering the 
really complicated details of office. 

The third chief then and there present was the Atak- 



seen the " purely Caucasian features " alluded to by young African 
travellers : amongst the negroids, or noble race, sometimes, but 
rarely. 



54 A MISSION TO GELELE. 

pa-loto, alias Podoji : ""■ lie is spy, or to use a more deli- 
cate term, " second in command " and assistant to Prince 
Chyudaton, the sub-viceroy, of whom more presently. 
He acts as assessor to the other dignitaries in super- 
vising the custom-takers and the royal store-keepers, 
and in settling small causes, such as petty debts and 
the disobedience of -wives and slaves. 

The chiefs at once took high grounds, gruflSy 
declaring that they brought the King's word, that is to 
say, a royal message, and directed us to stand up. I 
refused so to do till the royal cane, the symbol of the 
owner's presence, was brought into the assembly, and 
was prostrated to by all in the room. They then 
welcomed me, saying that the monarch had sent as 
reception gift, a goat, a pig, a pair of fowls, and forty 
yams. Of course the offering came from themselves, 
and required a suitable return, that is to say, anything 
between twice and twenty times its value. Having 



* The words mean literally, Podo-ji (he who steps in), No-to (the 
interior court of any royal house or palace-yard). The more common 
expression is L%ed6. It denotes a spy or reporter, with whom every 
official in Dahome is provided. The " miohing malecho " system is here 
perfect: if a captain is sent to prison, he must he accompanied hy his 
L§ged6, who prevents the wives sending food, and who is answerable 
for the sentence being carried out in its strictness. Dr. M'Leod (p. 86) 
quotes a native saying, " The swish walls can speak in this country." 



WE ENTER WHYDAH IN STATE. 35 

despatched them, we descended into the court, and 
■presented a case of gin (=five dollars) to the Ka-wo. 
After a long speech he perorated by offering to fight for 
me. My reply was, that as a commandant of Amazons, 
a dignity conferred upon me- during my last visit, I 
could fight for myself. Under the cover of loud 
applause excited by this mildest of retorts, we made 
our escape and withdrew into the fort. 

The same chiefs did not fail, after my return from 
Dahome, to call and beg another present. I refused 
them peremptorily,. thinking it unadvisable to establish 
such a precedent. The African, like the Jew to 
whom you have paid only twice too much, is miserable 
if he fancies .that you escape from him with a 
farthing. 

The first night surprised me by the contrast of the 
din of voices inside the house, and the dead silence 
beyond its walls. The streets are empty at dusk, as in 
the days of the Norman curfew ; few venture out after 
dark without a lantern, though the use is not, as in 
Cairo and most parts of Asia, imperative. The cour 
stabulary is admirable ; two men squat in forms hke 
hares, and startle the stranger by suddenly rising and 
by flashing their torches to scan his features : if he has 



56 A MISSION TO GELELE. 

lost his way they will escort him with all the politeness 
of a policeman. At times the Ka-wo, who is the local 
Sir R. Mayne, goes his rounds, and the stick falls 
heavily upon those caught napping. Hence, even in 
this head-quarters of the demoralising slave-trade, 
and where every man is a finished rascal,* crimes of 
violence are, among the natives, exceedingly rare. 
Murder at Whydah is unknown, except en cachette; 
housebreaking, save after a fire, is almost impossible ; 
and a man will leave with impunity clothes hanging up 
in his courtyard, — he would' not do it twice at Lagos. 
Mr. Bernasko, who has lived here eight years, never 
hesitates to walk out at night armed with nothing but 
a walking-stick. Theft is reduced to petty larceny, 
which, however, is universal ; there is nothing that these 
people will not pilfer, and they well keep up the 
character given by all travellers to their forefathers. 
In out-stations, like Grodome, there is of course much 
more of open crime, and the discipline of the subject is 
exceedingly lax. Whydah is a "white man's town," 
and under the direct supervision of the King, who rarely 

* Mr. Duncan (Vol. I. p. 113) says, "The natives of Whydah are 
the most depraved and unprincipled villains in all Africa, or perhaps in 
the world. Were it not for M. de Suza and his friends, indeed, there 
■would he no safety for white men." 



WE ENTER WHYDAH IN STATE. 57 

interferes with the* administration ; hence the frequent 
small abuses. If any evil report reaches the capital, a 
royal messenger comes down, and the authorities 
tremble. 



CHAPTER IV. 

A WALK EOUND WHYDAH. 

The three following days enabled us to study the 
topography of Whydah. The present town stands 
about 1"50 — 2 direct miles north of the sea; 
separated from the shore by a broad leek-greeii 
swamp, by a narrow lagoon, and by a high sandbank, 
whose tufted palms and palmyras, of a deep invisible 
green approaching black, form a hogsback, over which 
the masts of shipping only can be seen from the houses. 
The site wears the tricolor of S'a Leone, — hght and 
milky-blue sky, verdigris grass, and bright red 
argillaceous soil, with a blending shade of grey. The 
" ferruginous-looking clay," which in India and China 
has been suspected of emitting a " pestiferous mineral 
gas," and of causing the " cachexia loci," seems here to 
lose part of its injurious power. The town is not 
exceedingly unhealthy, despite its extreme filth, and 



A WALK BOUND WHYDAH. 59 

although the deep holes from -which the building 
material has been extracted are as great a nuisance as 
in Abeokuta and Sokoto. Indeed, as a rule, it is less 
deadly than other places on the Slave Coast, especially 
Lagos and Badagry. The nights are cool, and the day- 
breeze is, if anything, somewhat too strong for safety. 
At this season the people do not suffer from mos- 
quitos, "much provoking the exercise of a man's 
nails," as the old traveller has it. 

Beneath the surface soil there is a substratum of 
pure white sand overlying argil deeply tinctured with 
iron oxide from the northern hills ; and another bed of 
pure sand is supported by white clay to a depth of 
thirty-five feet : it is supposed that below this figure 
marine deposits would occur. The highest part of the 
town, that is to say the west end, is not more than forty 
feet above the sea,, and this we may assume to be the 
height of the first floor of the Enghsh Fort, which lies 
about the centre. After a shower the land is as viscid 
and muddy as that about Upper Norwood, and. such 
indeed is the condition of the whole country, espe- 
cially at Kana and in the capital. The earth when 
powdered, puddled, and exposed to the sun, becomes 
hard like bricks, which could be made, but are not 



60 A IinSSION TO GELELE. 

wanted. The old English fort has lasted upwards of a 
century. 

The greatest length of the town, which extends from 
south-east to north-west, is about two miles by half a 
mile in depth. There is no attempt at fortification, as 
there is in the capital ; but every house could be held 
against musketry. From the beach a few of the tallest 
habitations, backed by giant trees, meet the view, and 
prepare the visitor for something grandiose. The 
squalor within, however, contrasts sharply with the 
picturesque aspect from without. Whydah is a ruined 
place, everything showing decay, and during the last 
three years it has changed much for the worse. 
As in all Yoruba towns, the houses are scattered, and, 
except round the principal market-place, there is far 
more bush than building. The environs are either 
marshes or fields, palm-orchards, or bosquets of great 
but savage beauty; the fine and highly-cultivated 
farms found near Whydah by Mr. Duncan* no longer 
exist. 

The population of the town, which could accommo- 
date 50,000 souls, is variously estimated. Some have 

* Travels in Western Africa in 1845-1846. By John Dancan, late 
of First Life-guards. — Vol. I. p. 185. 



A AYALK EOUND WHYDAH. 61 

raised it to 30,000. Dr. M'Leod (1803) calculates 
20,000. M. Wallon (1858) proposes 20,000—25,000, 
but he is by no means a correct observer. The French 
Mission, which has perhaps the best chance of ascer- 
taining the truth, lays down the number at 12,000 ; 
and during war this may be reduced to half. The 
Christians (CathoHc) exceed 600 ; about 200 boys are 
known to the missionaries, and on an average during 
the year the latter baptize 110. The fathers are also 
of opinion that the population diminishes. 

The word " Whydah " is a compound of blunders. 
It should be written Hwe-dah,* and be applied to the 
once prosperous and populous little kingdom whose 
capital was Savi. A "bush town" to the westward, 
supposed to have been founded and to be still held by 
the aboriginal "Whydahs, who fled from the massacres of 
Dahome, still retains the name Hwe-dah. . The cele- 
brated slave-station which we have dubbed " Whydah," 
is known to the people as Gre-hwe or Gle-hwe,t " Plan- 
tation-house," 

* Hwe, in the Ffon dialect, means a house and grounds, as in Gre- 
hwe, for which see the next note. No one, however, could explain to 
me the etymological meaning of Hwe-dah. 

t Gre, or Gle — it is hard to know which to write — is a " plantation," 
not a " garden," as it is often translated ; Gre-ta, or Gle-ta, is a bush or 



62 A MISSION TO GELELE. 

A very brief resume of its stirring past is here 
necessary. According to tradition, Whydah, as I shall 
still call it, was originally a den of water-thieves and 
pirates, who paid unwilling allegiance to the kings of 
Savi. About the middle of the seventeenth century 
it rose to the rank of a prosperous ivory mart and 
slave port. In 1 725, it was first attacked by Agaja the 
Conqueror, fourth King of Dahome, the Guadja Trudo 
of the History, nominally for selling to him muskets 
without locks, really because, like all African monarchs, 
the height of his ambition was a point on the seaboard 
where he could trade direct with Europeans. The place 
after capture was called by him " Plantation-house," 
meaning that it must supply food to Agbonie the 
capital. So the History informs us the King of Eyeo 
(Oyo) used to say that Ardrah (AUada) was "Eyeo's 
Calabash," out of which nobody should be permitted to 
eat but the king himself. 

The Europeans, ever greedy of change in these dull 
lands, seem at first to have favoured Dahome against 

uncleared ground ; and Gre-ta-nun, or Gle-ta-nun, is a bush man. Mr. 
Duncan (Vol. I. p. 141) says, " The former name of Whydah was Grih- 
wee, or Grighwee, but since its subjection to Dahomy it has become 
part of that territory, and received its present name " — the reverse being 
the case. 



A WALK BOUND WHYDAH. 63 

Whydah. For whicH reason, and because they are 
officially called " King's Houses," tlie Forts receive cer- 
tain honours. Before the Viceroy can leave the town, 
and when he returns to it,* he must visit them officially 
in person, and he must pray at the Portuguese Fort, 
which is held to be the head-quarters of the white 
man's faith. He enters with his suite, and as the King's 
representative, he wears his sword, this, however, 
as well as the fetishes with which he is hung round, 
must, previous to the function, be removed. Before the 
present establishment was sent, the black priests at 
Whydah used to offer him holy water, now it is refused, 
and he walks to the font to harhouiller his face ; the 
missioners perform prayers, but without their sacra- 
mental robes, and he follows suit to the best of his 
ability. The King often sends a message requesting 
the orisons of the white men, which are not refused to 
him ; and Christianity being a recognised religion in 
Dahome, on the day of S. John — midsummer — he 
transmits by his Viceroy a pot of oil and a bottle of rum 
as his acknowledgment of faith. These viceregal visits 



* The Viceroy never goes to war; he is supposed to look after 
Whydah. His deputy, the Sub-vieeroy, is expected to be present at all 
campaigns. 



61 A MISSION TO GELELE. 

have at times been dangerous: in 1745, the Eunuch 
Yevo-gan " Tanga," raising the standard of revolt, pro- 
posed to seize the Enghsh Fort, and was prevented only 
by the vigilance of the governor, Mr. Gregory. Offences, 
committed in the " King's houses " are visited with a 
double penalty ; a native stealing from them will 
surely be put to death ; on the other hand, he may 
take sanctuary in and cannot be ejected from the 
Portuguese Fort without the consent of the missioners. 
The Enghsh Fort has the shameful distinction of being 
protected by two fetishes, Dohen and Ajaruma, the 
Defenders of White men.* 

Whydah, like the capital, is a congeries of villages 
divided into five " salams " or quarters, each under 
its own caboceer, and governed by the Viceroy, who has 
dwarfed the minor ofl&cials to mere captains. These. 
are 

1. Ahwanjigo, or Salam Fran9ais, on the north-west 
and west, French Town, directly under the Viceroy. . 

2. Ajudo, Ajido Chacha, or Brazilian Town, under 
the captain, Nodofre. 



* The History of Dabotue mentions a third, now ignored, "Nab- 
hakou," the "titular god of the English Castle in Whydah." See 
Chap. XVII. of this book. 



A WALK BOUND "WHYDAH. 65 

3. Sogbaji, or English Town : it has no governor ; 
the King urged me to take it, but I dedined, without 
receiving orders from home. 

4. Dukomen, Portuguese Town, on the east and west, 
under the Caboceer Bonyon. These four quarters have 
their forts :* the last is 

5. Zdbeme, or Market Town, lately under the Caboceer 
Nyonun, whose successor will be presently appointed. 

I now propose to conduct the reader through tlie 
town, and to describe its principal sites. 

Beginning from the south-east, we remark the De-nun 
or toll-house which guards the entrance of every Dahoman 
town, and the multitude of httle fetish huts, where the 
trader, after doing his devoir to the King, is expected 
to be not less dutiful to the gods. The streets are 
mere continuations of the bush-paths, but except in the 
wettest weather, they are not bad walking after Sandy 
Lagos. They are formed by the walls of the com- 
pounds and the backs of the houses, which are all built 
in a uniform manner. The material is the red pise 

• In the Dahoman tongue, " Zojage" is a Frenchman, " Aguda-yevo " 
a Portuguese or Brazilian, " Kan-kan-yevo " a Dutchman, "Payonnn- 
yevo" a Spaniard, and " Glensi" an Englishman. The "English mother," 
an offioeress at Court, is called " Glensi-no." In Mr. Duncan's time tho 
Portuguese quarter was far superior to all the others ; it is not so now. 

VOL. I. F 



6G A MISSION TO GELELE. 

of Britanny and Sindh. heaped up in three or four 
courses, but by law never more ; each course is fit'om 
a foot and a half to two feet high : the material has 
neither straw nor stone, but sometimes, as in Popo, 
oyster-shell is used to strengthen it. Each layer is 
covered during erection with a weather thatch, and is left 
to dry, for three days in a harmattan, and for tea in the 
wet seasons : it presently hardens to the consistency of 
freestone, and is, in fact, the national adobe. The rain 
torrents wash away the softer parts, and cut cracks 
down the sides if not protected from above : a certain 
mixture of salt in the soil causes the base to crumble 
the more readily, because here they do not, as on the 
Gold Coast, support it by growing cactus. A careful 
man repairs his wall in the early " dries." The establish- 
ments are extensive, sometimes covering acres. I saw 
only one being built, whilst many allowed me to walk 
over the broken-down walls, and almost all were 
externally in ruins. As in Asiatic Turkey, however, 
the interior often belies the wretched exteafior, and 
behind the blown-off thatch, leaving bare ribs and poles 
perilously protruding, there are snug inner rooms. The 
poorer classes have compounds of matting. The roof, 
not unlike that of an East Indian bungalow, is made of 



A W.VLK BOUND WHYDAII. 67 

palm, palmyra, and thick grass, mounted on a frame of 
lopped and cleaned branches, •with girders of bamboo ; 
and often it is raised in the " flying " form, to secure 
coolness. There are no windows, except in the Forts. 
Their places are taken by doors opening under the 
projecting eaves, that rest upon stout posts and trunks, 
especially those of the valuable and abundant palmyra. 
Striking into the main street, the tolerably straight 
road, which running from east to west bisects, the town, 
we sight the Portuguese fort, the smallest but the best 
situated for quiet and coolness. Of these buildings 
there are now four at Whydah, in order of seniorit}^, 
French, BraziUan, English, and Portuguese. The first- 
named people began the trade, and the second is pro- 
bably erected upon the old Dutch factory, although the 
name is clean forgotten. The Brandenburgher (Prus- 
sian) Afi-ican Company also built a strong factory at 
Whydah in 1684, but it long ago disappeared. With 
the exception of the Brazilian fort, all these buildings 
lie in a line from E. S. E. to W. N. W. : after the stone 
defences of the Gold Coast, these swish establishments 
are by no means imposing, and, except in the case of 
the Frenchman, for " Fort" we must read " Factory" or 
"School" 

F 2 



68 A MISSION TO GELELE. 

The Portuguese Fort is surrounded by a moat, whose 
depth is concealed by a mass of vegetation ; the 
people of the country prefer for defence a ditch in this 
state. The defences, a square compound bastioned at 
the angles, and the battery of rusty guns, are here 
purposely neglected. The main building, a large double- 
storied house, with walls thick as an old Norman castle, 
fronts westward. Lately repaired, it has a central 
saloon flanked by dormitories, and a long refectory on 
the ground-floor. It is pierced with a deep hollow gate- 
way, protected outside by two honeycombed guns. Over 
it is the Lusitanian scutcheon, minus the wooden crown, 
which perished during a late fire. Portuguese ordi- 
nances are still affixed to the door, and at the southern 
bastion the blue and white flag yet flies on high days 
and hohdays. In the compound are a detached chapel 
and belfry with two bells, date-less, but belonging to the 
former occupants: both are of swish work, and their 
mat roofs are distinguished from afar by two little 
wooden crosses. On the north and fronting the chapel 
is a range of small ground-floor rooms and refectory : 
These the missionaries find less unhealthy, curious to 
say, than the double-storied building, where, they assert, 
the sea breeze gives them fever. They have been 



A WALK EOUXD WHYDAH. 6!) 

careful, however, to dig under their pian^ terreno, and 
to lay down a board flooring, -whilst they look forward 
to raising houses on piles six feet high with a draught of 
air beneath. All is industry in this " Fort," a garden 
and a southern range of buildings are being made, 
quarters for the workmen and school-children are 
already available, and the church and belfry are con- 
sidered to be merely temporary. 

The " Vicariat Apostohque de Dahom6," was erected 
by the Holy Father in 1860, and its spiritual direction 
was entrusted to the new congregation of the African 
Missions, whose mother-house is at Lyons, 243, Rue de 
la Guillotiere. In 1860 the congregation of the Propa- 
ganda named as superior of this mission the priest 
Fran9ois Borghero, of Genoa, member of the congrega- 
tion of African Missions, whose superior-general, re- 
siding at Lyons, is M. I'Abbe Augustin Planque, of 
LiUe. The first despatch of missionaries left Toulon 
January 3rd, 1861, on board H. I. M. S. Araazone. 
It was composed of Messrs, les Abbes F. Borghero 
(Italian), Francois Fernandez, a Spaniard of the diocese 
of Lugo, in Gahcia (died in 1863, at Whydah), and 
Louis Edde, a Frenchman of the diocese of Chartres 
(he died en route at S'a Leone). The two first 



70 A MISSION TO GELELE. 

named arrived at Wliydah April IStli, 1861 ; on May 
6th of the same year they took possession of their pre- 
sent " Fort," by permission of the Dahoman authorities, 
and with the consent of the Portuguese resident at 
Whydah. Since the departure of M. Irene Lafitte, who 
is intended for one of the European establishments, the 
personnd is composed of six members/" There are ten 
boarders ; the number of the other scholars greatly 
varies, because the boys attend or stay away as they 
please. Of adults, I do not believe that a single con- 
vert has been made ; and the reverend fathers would 
do well to turn their attention towards Lagos and 
Abeokuta. 

This Yicariat is not obnoxious to the charge com- 
monly brought against Catholic estabhshments, namel}^ 
that though ardent, enduring, and self-sacrificing, they 
are too accommodating to heathenism, and thus they 
are unabiding ; whilst Protestant missions, like the con- 
stitution which hatches them, are respectable, comfort- 
able, and feeble, offering salaries to married men, who, 
in squabbles about outfit, passage, furlough, and convey- 

* Namely, five priests, MM. Borghero, Emile Cordioux, Terdelot, 
Nodiet, and Vermorel, all French except the first, and one minor, 
I'ran9ois Cloud, who is about to proceed for ordination to Prance. 



A WALK BOUND WHYDAH. 71 

ance of children, manage to spend about 500,000/. per 
annum. .Their uncompromising opposition of idolatry 
has more than once brought the members into trouble. 
In JS'oyember, 1861, M. Borghero visited the King at 
Agbome, and the list of his demands may be found in 
the published account of his journey to the capital.* 
In Marcli, 1863, the fort was struck by the hghtning- 
god, Khevioso, the Shango of the Egbas ; and they 
are not wanting who suppose that the fetishes, having 
been worsted in dispute by the Padres, took the oppor- 
tunity of a storm to commit the arson. As the inmates 
impiously extinguished the fire, they were heavily 
fined ; and, on refusing to pay, the Father-superior was 
imprisoned. In June of the same year occurred another 
dispute, about a sacred snake that was unceremoniously 
ejected from the mission premises!, and doubtless this 
anti-heathenism will bring them to further grief They 
look upon things en uoir, and naturally desire, but with 
little hope, to see Whydah in civilized hands. I found 
ihem intelligent, amiable, and devoted men, in whose 
society time sped pleasantly and profitably. To the 
excellent Superior especially I had reason to be grateful 

* See Annales de la Propagation de la Foi (No. 206, January, 1863). 
Paris, 34, Rue Cassette. 



72 A MISSION TO GELELE. 

for the loan of yocabularies and other papers. If I say 
too little, it is for fear of expressing too much. 

Near the French Mission, and at the south-eastern 
end of the town, is the establishment of M. J. Domingo 
Martinez, the best house in " Whydah." The compound 
■walls are, to obviate fire, tiled, not thatched, and a small 
grove of orange trees enlivens the interior. There is an 
old ground-floor tenement, by no means uncomfortable, 
Avith large, lofty, and cool rooms, furnished with musical 
boxes * and other knick-knacks, whilst portraits and oil- 
painting, rarities in unartistic Africa, depend from the 
walls ; and near it a large double-storied tenement, also 
tiled, is being built as a dwelling-place and a store for 
oil trading. 

When I last called upon M. Martinez he had been 
unwell for some weeks : Mr. Cruikshank, who was 
consulted, did not think his case dangerous. He 
died January 25th, 1864, when we were at the 
capital, and the death was brought on by a fit of pas- 
sion — not an uncommon occurrence in these hot- 



* These articles are one of the curses of the West African coast. 
Your white friend can pay you no higher compliment than to wind up 
the ahominations, and your Hack friend will start, if he has them, half- 
a-dozen at the same time. 



A WALK EOUND WHTDAH. 73 

tempered lands.* He had long been virtually king of 
Kutunun, a little post inland of Jackin, on the Denham 
waters, and of late much coveted by the new "Pro- 
tectors" of Porto Novo. The latter managed their 
dollars so well, that the King sent his cane to M. Mar- 
tinez, and a polite message, to say that his friend would 
presently be joined by a brother white man. At first 
the recipient stared aghast ; soon understanding the 
trick, he was seized with a trembling of passion ; he 
presently fainted, and he died the same night, I pre- 
sume of apoplexy. 

M. Martinez was a caboceer of Dahome, entitled to 
the umbrella, the chair, and the other insignia of his 
order. During his later years he has often said — and 
many a man has had, and will have, to say the same — 
that he had learned these people too late. The King 
claiming droit d'aubaine over the property of all his 
defunct subjects, the key of M. Martinez's house was at 
once, after his death, appropriated by the Viceroy of 
Whydah. He has left a large family, all by native 
women. His eldest son, Domingo Rafael Martinez, is a 

* So during the late fire at Whydah, the Chaeha, M. Fr. de Souza, 
when he saw his house destroyed, very nearly died of passion. The 
same nncontrollable fits of rage have been observed amongst the Hotten^ 
tots and the South African bashmen. 



U A MISSION TO GELELE. 

youtli about t\yenty ; he is not uneducated, speaking 
English and French, although his father thought it 
best to keep him in irons for some years, and thus 
unteach him tlie use of the knife. It will be •well for. 
the heir if the deceased has left a " bag " at Bahia. 

M. Martinez is a sore loss to the slaving interest. A 
dozen years ago there were at Whydah 200 Spaniards 
and Portuguese, including Brazilians and half-castes. 
By glancing his eye below, the reader will see how 
much the number of these "slave consumers" is 
reduced."" And the next decade will find all the sur- 

*'The following is a list of the Portuguese, Brazilians, mulattos, 
and civilized Africa-ns now remamiug at the great mart. Five Eor- 
tuguese, viz. : — 

3. Antonio Viera da Silra, established at Wtydah, Grand-Pope, and 
Agwe. 

2. Francisco de Souza Maciel. 

3. Ignacio de Sonza Magallaes ; Whydah, Porto Kovo, and Badagiy, 

4. Jacinto Joaquim Rodriguez ; Whydah and Porto Novo. 

5. J. Suares Pereira : Whydah and Agwe. 
Fourteen Braiziliaiis : — 

1. Francisco Antonio Monteiro. 

2. F. J,. Medeiios, now at Agwe {same say he is a Portuguese, born 
in the United .States). 

3. Francisco Olimpio Silva, at Porto Seguro. 

4. Marco Borges F^rras. 

5. Joao Pinheiro de Souza, commonly called Taparica. 

6. Grulielme Martins do Nascimento. 

7. Marcelino dos Martins Silva. 

8. Eicardo Augusto Amadie : he speaks French and English. 

9. Jouo Victor Angelo. 



A WALK EOUND WHYDAII. 75 

vivors engaged in cotton or in palm-oil — the " doulo- 
meter of the slave-trade " — or in nothing. 

M. Martinez had his good points : he -was always 
courteous and hospitable, even to his bitterest enemies, 
the English ; morever, to his praise be it spoken, ho 

10. Jose Francisco dos Santo, commonly called Alfaiate, i'.e., the 
TaUor. 

11. Angelo Custodio das Chagas. 

12. Joao Antonio Bias. 

13. Franeisoo Giorge. 

14. Domingo Eafael Martinez, son of J. Domingo Martinez. 
And four Brazilian women, viz. : — 

1. Maria Elena do Carmo. 

2. Benvinde Teresa de Jesus. 

3. Leopoldina Teresa de Jesus. 

4. Maria da Piedade do Wasoimento. 

^.B. There are a few Brazilians of minor importance attached to the 
above houses. 

The ten following are Africans or Brazil liberateds, who are mostly 
Nagos (Egbas) or Whydah men. liTone of them are at all important, and 
there are a few others whose names do not deserve mention. 

1. Joao Antonio de Eego. 

2. ElisbadLino. 

3. Thobias Barreto Brandao. 

4. Joaquim das Neves. 

5. DamiaO de Oliviera, who is considered the best mason at Whydah. 

6. Antonio d'Almeida. 

7. Jose de Fongeca Muniz, the son of the late J. C. Muniz. 

8. Pedro Pinto da Silveira. This is the well-known slaver, Pedro 
Cogio, of Little Popo. He has a son residing at Whydah, and managing 
the affairs of JosS Alfaiate. His name is, 

9. Domingo Francisco da Silveira, 
10. P«dro Fellis d' Almeida. 

All these are "God-men," which, in Anglo- African, is opposed to 
"devil-men," or heathenry. 



76 A MISSION TO GELELE. 

invariably, like the first Chacha, de Souza, discounte- 
nanced native cruelties and human sacrifice. He be- 
friended the Church Mission in 1846, vrhen hopelessly 
stranded at Badagry, and being a slaver, he gained, as 
might be expected, little gratitude. Peace to his 
manes, and may he escape the Dahoman Deadland, 
where I much doubt that he would be warmly wel- 
comed ! 

Passing along the main street we now enter the 
Zdbeme,* or Great Market, one of the Whydah "lions." 
It is, or rather was, a long thoroughfare, covering at 
least an acre, with offsets, cross streets, and here and 
there a cleared space. The booths are low, square, 
open thatch-sheds, raised upon chabutaras, or benches 
of well-worked red clay, about one foot above the pas- 

* No one could explain tHe meaning of this word. Z6 means the later 
rains, and must not he confounded with Z6, fire, which is pronounced 
with a depression of the voice. The Yoruhan languages, like the Chinese, 
depend upon accents and intonations which are not ours. For instance, 
So or Soh, slightly aspirated, is a stick. So, with a falling of the voice, 
has the same signification as Khevio-s6, thunder. So, with a rising of 
the voice, means a horse ; and with an almost imperceptible variation of 
voice, means hring ; e. g., So z6 wi, bring hither fire ! So (pronounced 
Saw), means yesterday or to-morrow, a fair specimen of linguistic 
poverty, and leading to numerous mistakes. But these delicacies of 
intonation are inherent in monosyllabic tongues. That childish form of 
human language also delights in imitative words, as Koklo, a " caokler" 
or fowl (in Prakrit Kukkur), Kra-kra, a watchman's rattle, and so on. 



A WALK EOUND WHYDAII. 77 

sages. They are either joined or in broken lines, and 
all are kept clean -with bois de vache. A detached hut 
proclaims the gin palace ; the material, — bottles and 
decanters of Brazilian rum and cheap French liqueurs, 
with glasses of all sizes, — stands on white cloths,, and 
business seems to be brisk. Nor are the victualling 
arrangements less complete ; half the shops contain 
either raw or cooked provisions, and many a " working 
man" breakfasts and dines in the alley. This rude 
bazaar is fullest at 4 p.m., when swarms of people, 
especially women, meet to buy and sell, " swap " and 
barter all the requirements of semi-civilized life. For 
the articles most in vogue, I may refer the reader to a 
previous pubhcation,* and almost any book of travels 
treating of the countries of the Upper Niger will show 
him how far the system is capable of being carried out. 
At Whydah, as at Bombay and Aden, the prices have 
increased, or rather have doubled, during the last ten 
years ; and despite the complaints of commercial de- 
pression, the value of coin still diminishes. It is a 
curious contrast, the placidity and impassiveness with 
which the seller, hardly taking the trouble to remove 

* Wanderings in West Africa. Abeokuta, Chap. III. See also Mr. 
Duncan, Vol, I., p, 121. 



78 A MISSION TO GELELE. 

lier pipe, drawls out the price of her two-co^Yrie lots, 
and the noisy excitement of the buyers, who know that 
they must, purchase and pay the demand. There is no 
lack of civility to us amongst the people, and the chil- 
dren cheer and jeer White Face without any awe. The 
two normal African coraplejcions, red-yellow and brown- 
black, are very distinct at- Whydah, and here and there 
we meet features which might belong to an ugly Sina- 
itic Bedawi. There are also palpable traces of Cau- 
casian bldod in what the Anglo-Indian lady called 
'' European infantry," a parody upon the " European 
infamy " of the garrison chaplain. 

The only picturesqiie part of the market-place is to 
the eastward, where there is a hutlesS space, lined with 
shady trees, especially the Hun-ti, or Bombax, under 
which the venders congregate in the glare of the day. 
Conspicuous for its beamty is the Lise tree, which, the 
Fantis of the Gold Coast call Akyen. The Portuguese 
have named it the " African cashew." Tall, thick, and 
with the darkest green foHage, it is set-off by studs' of 
scarlet apples depending from long stalks. The fruit, 
which is eaten at Agbome, is insipid, as are almoat 
all wild growths, and not a little like a raw turnip. The 
flower gives a delicious perfume, and the wood supplies 



A W.ULK ROUND WHYDAII. 79 

good potasli for soap. The other trees are mostly 
thick-leaved oranges and limes, whilst the hedges are 
of the malarious croton {Croton tigHum), which here, as 
in Yoruba generally, attains the rankest dimensions. 

It is impossible at Whj'dah to mistake the religi- 
ousness of the Pagan, though we vainly look for any 
trace of human relics. Even in the bazaar, many a 
hut will be girt round with the Zo Vodun,* a country 
rope with dead leaves dangling to it at spaces of 
20 ft. After a conflagration this. Fetish fire-propby- 
lactic becomes almost universal. Opposite the house 
gates again we jEnd the Vo-sisa defending the inmates 
from harm. It is of many shapes^ especially a stick 
or a pole, with an empty old calabash for a head, 
and a body composed of grass thatch, palm leaves, 
fowls' feathers, and achatinze shells. These people 
must deem lightly of an evil influence tiat can mis- 
take, even in the dark, such a scarecrow for a human 
being. Near almost every door stands the Legba- 

* Vodun is Fetish, in general. I hardly know whether to write it 
Vodun or Fodun, the sound of the two labials is so similar. New 
comers are apt to confound this Fetish with the Azan or fringe of 
dried palm-leaf, which, fastened about a tree, places it under the pro- 
tection, ai the Bo-Fetish. When a man wears the latter round his 
throat, witchcraft can do him no barm ; and if a war captive, he may 
not be killed. 



80 A MISSION TO GELELE. 

'gban, or Legba-pot, by Europeans called the " Devil's 
Dish."* It is a common clay shard article, either 
•whole or broken, and every morning and evening it 
is filled, generally by "women, with cooked maize and 
palm-oil, for the benefit of the turkey-buzzard {Perc- 
nopter niger), like the Pinda offered to Hindu crows. 
"Akrasu,"t the vulture, is next to the snake, the 
happiest animal in Dahome. He has always an abun- 
dance of food, like storks, robins, • swallows, crows, 
adjutant cranes, and other_ holy birds in different parts 
of the world. He may not be killed with impunity, 
and he rarely loses his life except on the most solemn 
occasions. The knowledge of his safety renders 
him so tame that he will refresh himself among the 
poultry ; and gorged with daily banquets, the " beast 
of a bird " will hardly deign to take wing before being 
trodden upon ; I have seen him eating amongst the 
crowd before the King's tent, and half ready to show 
fight if interrupted. When hungry, he seems always 
to consider you as if you were butcher's meat. 

* The food -which it contains is called Legba-nun-dudu, or " eating 
for Legba." 

t There are two kinds, Akrasu, the common Percnopter niger, and a 
larger grey species, with a very hooked beak, called by the people 
Akkun. 



A WALK ROUND WHTDAH. 81 

Travellers abuse this " obscene fowl," forgetting that 
■without it the towns of Yoruba would be uninhabit- 
able. Moreover, except after a meal of carrion, 
it has by no means the " foul aspect " which Com- 
mander Forbes ascribes to it, nor is its " familiarity " 
at all " sickening." The fact is, that officer saw 
human sacrifice everywhere, although the rite never 
takes place at Whydah, the condemned being sent 
up to the capital for execution. The turkey-buzzard 
perched on the topmost stick of a blasted calabash 
tree, is to unromantic material Africa what the pea- 
fowl, weather-cocking the tall Mawri is to more 
engaging Asia. It always struck me as the most 
appropriate emblem and heraldic bearing for decayed 
Dahome. 

The new comer must not confound the " Vulture's 
dish" with another display of earthenware. Places 
are consecrated by planting dwarf flags round a forked 
stick, or round a tree cut down to a reversed tripod, 
which supports a red clay pot or pot cover. Upon this 
the passers-by deposit a little food or palm-oil, and 
sometimes cabalistic messes, to bring luck or to ward 
off" danger. 

Legba himself is a horrid spectacle. A mass of red 



82 A MISSION TO GBLELE. 

clay is rouglily nKMilded by the clumsy, barbarous 
artist into an imitation man, vfho is evidently, like 
Jupiter, 

A deTil of a god for following tlie girls. 

The figure is at squat, crouched, as it were^ before 
its own attributes, with arms longer than a gorilla's, 
huge feet, and no legs to speak of. The head is of 
mud or wood, rising conically to an almost pointed 
poll; a dab of clay represents the nose; the mouth 
is a gash from ear to ear, and the eyes and teeth are of 
cowries, or painted ghastly white. This deity almost 
fills a temple of dwarf thatch, open at the sides. In 
nine eases out of ten he has returned, human-like, to 
an undistinguishable heap of dust, but it would be 
sacrilege to remove the sacred rubbish. Legba is of 
either sex, but rarely feminine. Of the latter I have 
seen a few, which are even more horrid than the male ; 
the breasts project like the halves of a German sausage, 
and the rest is to match. In this point Legba difi"er8 
from the classical Pan and the Lampsacan god,* but 



* How strong a superstition this worship is, may be gathered from 
the annals of the monotheistic Jews, amongst whom Maaoah, the queen- 
mother of Asa, set up the ' ' horror " in a grove. 



A WALK BOUND WHYDAH. 83 

the idea involved is the same. The Dahoman, like 
almost all semi-barbarians, considers a numerous family 
the highest blessing, and fatherlessness the greatest 
curse in mundane life, and what men think in these 
lands must be minded by women. The peculiar 
worship of Legba consists of propitiating his or her 
characteristics by unctions of palm-oil. The " Ana- 
tinkpo," or knotted clubs planted around the figure with 
their knobs in the air, are possibty derived from Oshe, 
the "weapon of the Bgba " Shango."'"' 

Issuing from the bazar to westward, we pass on the 
right a large ruinous tenement, built by a quadroon 
merchant, Mr. Hutton, of Cape Coast Castle, whose 
" Gothic House " there has just been converted into 
Government quarters. After he was drowned on the 
Lagos bar (18.57), this place was sold to a Spaniard, 
known only as D. Juan, who presently perished, of 
course by poison, at Badagry. As the last proprietor 
owed 200 dollars to the king, it then became royal 
demesne. 

We are now at the EngUsh factory, which will re- 
quire description ; it has played a conspicuous part 

* There is also a great demon in Egba land, who uses a knob-stiet, 
called Oggo, and who therefore is known as Agongo-Oggo. 

o 2 



84 A MISSION TO GELELE. 

in local politics, and it may perchance do so again. 
Williams Fort, as it is called in old writings, was built 
for the Royal African Company of England, by Cap- 
tain Wiburne, brother to Sir John Wiburne ; its fouu- 
dation is therefore nearly two centuries old. In 
Barbot's* day (1700) it was 100 yards square, with 
four large earthen flankers, mounting twenty-one good 
guns ; the trench, crossed by a drawbridge of boards 
spread on beams, was 20 ft. deep by 18 ft. wide, and its 
establishment consisted of twenty whites and one hun- 
dred gromettos, or slaves, attached to English Town, 
under the orders of a governor. The old traveller 
places it three miles from the water-side, between the 
Danish fort (now quite forgotten) on the west, and 
within half-a-mile of the French and Dutch forts. 
In its day it has sheltered, under Governor Tinker, the 
King of Whydah, when Savi, his capital, was taken by 
Dahome ; Governor Wilson gave protection to Ossue, 
the leader of the Whydahs and Popos ; rash Governor 
Testesole was, by orders of the Great King, murdered, 
and some say eaten ; Governor Gregory defended it 



* A Description of the Coasts of North and South Guinea. By John 
Barbot, Agent-General of the Royal African Company and Islands of 
America, at Paris. This old book is a mine of information,. 



A WALK BOUND WHYDAH. So 

against Tanga, the rebel ; brave Governor Goodson, b}-- 
the fire of his fort won back Whydah for Dahome ; 
Governor Abson here lived thirty-seven years, and left 
behind him Sally, of tragical end ; stout Mr. Hamilton 
procured the release of Dr. M'Leod, and Governor 
James, the younger of that name, who succeeded the two 
former, is still known as the King's friend. 

The shape of the enceinte is a square or parallel- 
ogram, enclosing several acres, surrounded by a well- 
grown moat, and formerly defended at the angles by 
once round bastions, with their rusty guns, a total of 
twenty-four carronades still lying there and about the 
court. Even in 1803, we az'e told that only three or 
four of the cannon were sound enough to be used in 
saluting, the others being so honeycombed and corroded 
that those firing them would have been in more danger 
than those fired at. The compound is divided into 
unequal parts by a wall running from east to west ; to 
the north, where a garden should be, there is a foul 
Fetish figure throned amidst a mass of filth, — yet the 
people wonder that they suffer from small-pox and 
measles ! The main building, fronting south, to catch 
the sea breeze, is a huge half-whitewashed barn, red 
and crumbhng below, with a ragged, tattered pent-roof 



66 A MISSION TO GELELE. 

thatch ahove ; the walls, pierced with irregular shut- 
tered holes, are 4 ft. thick, and the " great hall " * and 
five dwarf rooms 'inside suggest comparison with the 
ab ewterno size of the edifice. 'The interior is as shahbj 
as the exterior, the floors yawn wide, and the ceUing 
threatens to fall. As usual in these buildings, there 
is but one entrance, a gloomy and cavernous gate- 
way, like the Arab's " barzah," under the main building. 
The barton between the bouse and Fetish-ground con- 
tains out-houses and ofl&ces for servants and followers; 
a well, which at times fails ; instead of " steeple house " 
a shingled chapel, which is also school-room ; a " cookr 
house" (not a kitchen) ; a bathing-place, bachelor's 
quarters, four rows of umbrella trees, under whose shade 
is the usual trellised arbour, and the old " Hog-yard," 
which name, however, is now forgotten. 

The Hog-yard is a square detached house in the 
centre of the enceinte, near the old circular powder- 
magazine; it derives its peculiar appellation, from the 
fact that white men. were buried here. The founder of 
the fort, Captain Wiburne, was the first tenant, and it 
has: been since used as a family vault for the servants of 

* It was tlie mess-room, of the governor and his officers, with what- 
ever strangers might be staying in the place. 



A WALK BOUND WHYDAII. 87 

the -"Company." Captain Thomas Phillips tells us a 
characteristic tale of this institution. A Mr. Smith, the 
chief factor, being sick, one of the kings of Whydah 
insisted upon sending a Fetish priest to his relief. 
The reverend man, carrying brandy, rum, rice, oil, and 
other creature comforts, entered the Hog-yard, and thus 
addressed the deaf and dumb inmates : 

" ye dead -whites that live here ! you have a mind 
to have ■with you this factor that is sick, but he is a 
friend to the King, who loves him, and -whq will not 
part with him as yet ! " 

Then, repairing to Captain Wiburne's grave, he 
cried out : 

" thou captain of all the dead whites that lie here ! 
this is thy doing : thou wouldst have this man from us 
to bear thee company, because he is a good man, but 
our King will not part with him, and thou shalt not 
have him yet ! " 

Thus saying, the holy man made a hole over the 
grave, and poured in the various articles which he had 
brought with him, telUng the ghostly tenant that if he 
wanted those things, they were all there for him, but 
the factor he must not expect, and should not have. 

The historian goes on to say that the ' Englishmen 



88 A MISSION TO GELELE. 

present, disgusted hy this mummery, kicked the 
Fetisheer out of the fort, and that Mr. Smith inconti- 
nently died, — a proof stronger than any Holy "Writ to 
the negro mind that black man's "medicine he be 
good." 

In the Hog-yard also reposes Mr. James, called by 
the natives " Huze-huze." In December and January, 
-when the Whydah Fetish fetes take place, the native 
priests flock with drums to perform idolatrous rites at 
his grave. 

I summoned the Caboceers, and protested against 
these proceedings in the capital of English Town.' 
They of course promised to report my objections to 
the King, and certainly thought no more about the 
matter. The English fort at Whydah is a scandal, 
morally and physically. Compared with the French 
Mission, it gives exactly the measure of difference 
between the white man and .the mulatto, — even in 
these lands, where climate is so much against the 
former. The "Wesleyan Mission should be ashamed of it. 

* English Town is one of the moat populous parts of Whydah, and 
lies hehind its Fort, Like the other quarters, it is chiefly inhabited by 
the descendants of Fort slaves, and they are bound to do corvee for 
English visitors. They speak a little of our language, and they muster 
perhaps 300 families. 



A WALK EOUND WHYDAn. 89 

A few hundred pounds would make the place respect- 
able, by the expulsion of the Fetish, and by the resto- 
ration of a building which has now passed out of 
government's hands. The sound of psalmody is cer- 
tainly not wanting, indeed, Ihe " holloaing of anthems," 
as FalstaflF calls it, is satis stiperque ; and besides the 
school-children, there are nearly a score of he-fellows — 
schoolmaster, cook, barber, tailor, interpreter, and 
others — ^loafing and lounging about the court and 
arbour. They should be made at least to work their 
cost in salt. I only hope that an English Company 
will, at some not distant day, take the restoration in 
hand. 

In 1842-43, the Wesleyan Mission was nominally 
established at "Whydah by Mr. T. B. Freeman, the 
" Bishop of the Gold Coast," and Mr. Dawson, the com- 
panion of his travels. Eleven years afterwards they 
were followed by the Reverend Mr. Bernasko, the pre- 
sent principal and the sole occupant of the English 
Fort, accompanied by a Mr. Laing, now doing duty at 
Annamaboe. They began by a melange of commerce 
and conversion, which was far from being favourably 
received by King Gezo. Perhaps for that reason they 
have been taken en amitii by his royal son. Gelele has 



90 A MISSION TO GELELE. 

given ovei- to them six youths, sons of the old Fort slaves 
of the English town ; he will not, however, allow the 
number to be increased. The total of the congregation 
is a dozen men, mostly Fantis, and all coloured. The 
school-muster greatly varies : when I was last there, it 
numbered forty-six pupils, of whom twenty-three were 
boarders, including the human presents given according 
to custom by the King to his various visitors at Agbome. 
Amongst others under the charge of Mrs. Bernasko, is 
" Jane," popularly called the Commodore's Wife, a huge 
porpoise, a female Daniel Lambert, and a fair match 
for three men. There also are the two girls, " one 
about twelve, the other sixteen, very pretty and intelh- 
gent,"'^ dashed at Agbome to Captain Wilmot for 
education in England. Tastes in the matter of beauty 
differ. I found " Amelia," the youflger, aged at least 
sixteen, and an uncommonly plain and dingy specimen ; 
whilst " Emma," the elder, had passed eighteen, and 
wore an expression of intense stupidity, combined with 
the external development of a female " Legba." They 
are thus too old to learn, and in these days it is not 

* See Appendix III., Despatoh.es from Commodore Wilmot, respect- 
ing his visit to the King of Dahomy, in December, 1862, and January, 
1863. Presented to the House of Commons by command of Her Majesty, 
in pursuance of their address, June 16, 1863. * 



A WALK BOUND WHYDAII. 91 

SO easy as it was to become African "princesses." 
Finally, neither of them can be termed Dahoman, — 
the former is an Ishaggan, and the latter is a Makhi 
captive. 

For the English name in these parts, I am sorry to 
see Mr. Bernasko so situated. He has small pay, a large 
family, and many calls upon his purse. But it draws 
down contempt upon a faith when its teachers are 
compelled to trade for their livelihood, and to keep 
within a few yards of their chapel a shop in which 
cloth and pottery, rum and ammunition, are sold. 

Passing out of the English fort, we see in front and 
on the oiF side of "Main Street," two brick pillars 
inclined like the leaning towers of Bologna, and show- 
ing where once was the factory garden. Here grew the 
orange-grove alluded to by Dr. M'Leod, and the thin 
tamarind under which Governor Abson was buried. 
It has long been abandoned to the weeds, and a dozen 
sheep and goats now pick a scanty meal.. On the 
right hand and to the south-west of William's Fort, is a 
large ruined establishment that belonged to Ignacio de 
Souza, a son of the original Chacha. He fell into dis- 
grace four to five years ago, under the suspicion of 
having reported to a British cruiser the intended 



92 A MISSION TO GELELE. 

departure of a slaver, and he mysteriously disappeared. 
His property was "broken" by the "Don-pwe peo- 
ple " * here, a sign of complete and irretrievable ruin. 
It is a custom borrowed from the old kings of Whydah. 
The house has lately been granted by the King to a 
Mr. Craft, a mulatto, not a negro, as his semi-scientific 
auditors at Newcastle firmly believed him to be. The 
repairs -will cost about £600, but this agent to the 
new "Company of African Merchants" says that he 
■will easily make it pay. Perb veremos ! 

Bending towards the north of the English fort, we 
pass through a large empty space now being cleared of 
grass for the Christmas " play." It shows a big tree-t 
grown hole whose earth has been excavated for 
building, and a central shed erected by the present 
King for his " Blue " guards to marshal, dance, drink, 
and settle the palavers peculiar to their corps. The 
" Blues " outside the palace, also called " English Com- 
pany," correspond with the "Panti company" of women 
inside : they are held to be body-guards, but they are 

* Don (young), and pwe (small or young, as in Pwe-vi). These are 
a troop oipetitsjeunes hommes, who must do something to distinguish 
themselves, organised by the King for his especial seryiee, and to coun- 
teract the lazy and crafty veterans. These moutards are under a head- 
man, and each great Caboceer has at least one Don-pwe. 



A WALK EOUND WHYDAH. 93 

not regulars. For this reason it is called, after one of 
the royal houses at the capital, Jegbe. 

Beyond this square is a dark circular clump of giant 
trees, — splendid figs, calabashes, and borabaxes rising 
from a dense bush which doubtless has witnessed many 
a deed of darkness. One would suppose that they 
were fetished to preserve them ; but the Tree and the 
Ocean, as well as the Snake, formed of old the pecuhar 
cultus of Whydah. At its eastern end is the second 
lion of the town, and a very minute one, the Danh- 
hwe,* or Boa Temple. It is nothing but a small 
cylindrical mud hut — some fetish houses are square 
— with thick clay walls supporting a flying thatch roof 
in extinguisher shape. Two low narrow doorless 
entrances fi:ont each other, leading to a raised floor of 
tamped earth, upon which there is nothing but a broom 
and a basket. It is roughly whitewashed inside and 
out, and when I saw it last a very lubberly fresco of a 

* Or Danhgbwe-hwe, or Vodun-hwe, i.e., Fetish House ^ar excellence. 
In all these ■words the n is highly nasal. A common snake is called 
Danh; the python, Danhgbwe, a purely Whydah word, which must not 
be confounded with Dagbwe, "good." Dr. M'Leod corrupts the word 
to Daboa. 'Gbwe means a bush, but according to my interpreters it is 
no component part of Danhgbwe. Hwe signifies, I have said, a house 
and grounds, in fact the_ whole establishment, as distinguished from 
Ho, a room (as in Za-ho, a ceiling'd or store-room). 



94 A MISSION TO GELELE. 

ship under fuU sail sprawled on the left of the doorwaj. 
A httle distance from the entrance were three small 
pennons, red, white, and blue cottons tied to the top of 
tali poles. 

The Danhgbwe is here worshipped, Hke the monkey- 
near Accra and Wuru, the leopard of Agbome, the 
iguana of Bonny, and the crocodile at Savi, Porto Seguro, 
and Eadagrj^ The reptile is a brown yellow-and-wMte- 
streaked python of moderate dimensions ; and none 
appear to exceed five feet. The narrow neck and head 
tapering like the sl&w-worm's, show it to be harmless ; 
the negro indeed says that its bite is good as a defence 
against the venomous species, and it is tame with con- 
stant handling. M. Wallon saw 100 in the temple, 
some 10 feet long, and he tells his readers that they 
are never known to bite, whereas they use their sharp 
teeth like rats. Of these " nice gods " I coimted seven, 
including one which was casting its slough ■ all were 
reposing upon the thickness of the clay wall where it 
met the inner thatch. They often wander at night, 
and whilst I Avas sketching the place a negro brought 
an estray in his arms ; before raising it, he rubbed his 
right hand on the ground and duly dusted his forehead, 
as if grovelling before the king. The ugly brute coiled 



A WALK EOUND WHYDAII. 95 

harmlessly round his neck, like a " doctored " cohra in 
India or Algeria. Other snakes may be killed and 
carried dead through the town, but strangers who meddle 
with the Danhgbwe must look out for "palavers," 
which, however, veill probably now resolve themselves 
into a fine. In olden times death has been the con- 
sequence of killing one of these reptiles, and if the 
snake be abused, " serious people " still stop their ears 
and run away. 

When under former reigns a native killed a Danh- 
gbwe, even accidentally, he was put to death ; now, tlie 
murderer is placed somewhat like the Salamanders of 
old Vauxhall, in a hole under a hut of dry faggots 
thatched with grass which has been well greased with 
palm-oil. This is fired, and he must rush to the nearest 
running water, mercilessly belaboured with sticks and 
pelted with clods the whole way by the Danhgbwe- 
no," or fetish-priests. Many of course die under the 
gauntlet. Thus there is a bapteme de feu as well as a 
bapteme d'eau ; fire and water, to say nothing of the 
gauntlet, must combine to efiace the god-killing 

• '^0, at the end of a compound word, means primarOy mother {e.ff., 
Danhgbwe-no, snake-mother) : tropically, master of, or in the Arabic 
sense, father of {e.r/., Abu Hanash, father of snake). Its general use 
shows the superior dignity of the lower sex in Dahome. 



96 A MISSION TO GELELE. 

crime.* The elder de Souza saved many a victim by 
stationing a number of bis slaves round the deicide, with 
orders to hustle and beat him in semblance not in 
reality. This was truly the act of a " Good Samaritan." 

Ophiolatry in our part of Africa is mostly confined 
to the coast regions ; the Popos and Windward races 
worship a black snake of larger size ; and in the Bight 
of Biafra the Nimbi or Brass River peoplef are as 
bigoted in boa-religion as are the Whydahs. The 
system is of old date : Bosman, at the beginning of the 
last century, described it almost as it is at present. It 
well suits the gross materialism of these races, and yet 
here men ought to be tired of it. As will afterwards 
appear, the snakes lost their kingdom ; yet we are told 
that when the Dahomans permitted serpent-worship to 
continue, the Whydahs, abundantly thankful, became 
almost reconciled to the new stern rule. 

Snake worship is both old and widely spread ; J we 



* Mr. Duacan witnessed this "absurd and savage custom," and de- 
tailed it in Tol. 1., p. 195. 

t There the python has exceeded, I am told, nineteen feet in length. 
Dr. M'Leod says that in Dahome many have been found from thirty to 
thirty-six feet long, and of proportional girth, but he does not say that 
he saw them. 

X Man's natural sense of personal fear probably originated the many 
fanciful ideas concerning the ssevissima vipera : — it is truly said, Timor 



A WALK EOUND WHTDAH. 97 

recognise it among the Psylli of the ancients, and in 
the Eoman Ophiolatreia of "which Livy wrote anguem 
in quo ipsum niimen fuisse constabat. In the Christian 
Church the animal was adored by the Ophites, perhaps 
on the same principle that the Sheytan Parast pro- 
pitiates H. S. M., or that certain ignorant Roman 
Catholics have burned the candle at both ends in 
honour of the Powers of Light and Darkness. The 
Ophites were thus opposed to the orthodox, who held 
the unfortunate animal to be the " fatal destroyer of the 
human race," the " type of the devil and deluder of 
mankind." Barbot quotes upon this subject the 
Golden Serpent of the first Israelites, the Brazen 
Snake of Moses, the Dragon of Babylon, and the 
Thermutis or Asp of Egypt, where it was accounted 
one of the most valuable symbols of religion." Eras- 
mus Stella informs us, in his Antiquities of Borussia, 
that people began worship by ophiolatry. Sigismund, 
baron of Huberstein, in his account of Moscovy, says, 
" that snakes were adored in Samogitia and Lithuania." 

fecit deos. The surpassing subtlety of the brute, the female supposed 
to devour the male, and the young their parent, with the monstrous 
imaginative offshoots — dragons, fiery snakes, the great sea-serpent, — all 
such romantic zoology seems to have originated from one and the same 
source. 



98 A MISSION TO GELELE. 

The Naga of India was the Couch of Vishnu and the 
type of eternity ; it is still revered by the snake- 
charmer.* Herodotus (2. 74) mentions the sacred 
serpent at Thebes. The Romans during a plague 
brought ^sculapius, son of Apollo, from Epidaurus, 
in the form of a huge serpent, and with great sacrifices 
and ceremonies lodged him in an island of the Tiber. 
Finally, I may observe that from the Slave-Coast 
" Vodun " or Fetish we may derive the " Vaudoux " or 
small green snake of the Haytian negros, so well-known 
by the abominable orgies enacted before the " Vaudoux 
King and Queen," f and the " JKing Snake " is still 
revered at S'a Leone. 

On the other side of the road the devotees of the 
snake are generally lolling upon the tree roots in pre- 
tended apathy, but carefully watching over their gods. 
Here too are the fetish schools, where any child 
touched by the holy reptile must be taken for a year 
from its parents — who "pay the piper" — and must 

* In bygone days at Baroda of Guzerat I studied snake-charming 
under a native professor, when some of my brother officers — after filling 
the house with the hugest ranss, to testify their abhorrence of frog- 
eaters — killed in waggishness a iine cobra. The terrified Hindu would 
never again " darken " those doors. 

t The orgies are derived from the old fetish practices, which may be 
found in Bosman and Barbot. 



A WALK EOUND WHYDAH. 99 

be taught the various arts of singing and dancing 
necessary to the worship. This part of the system 
has however lost much of the excesses that prevailed 
in the last century, when, at the pleasure of the strong- 
backed fetish men, even the king's daughters were not 
excused from incarceration and from its presumable 
object. The temple is still annually visited by the 
Viceroy, during the interval after the Customs and 
before the campaigning season. He takes one bullock, 
with goats, fowls, cloth, rum, meal, and water to the 
priest, who, holding a bit of kola nut, prays aloud for 
the King, the country, and the crops. 

Close to the Boa Temple is the palace of the Yevo- 
gan,* or Viceroy of Whydah. Tliis is an importaat 

* It is an old Whydah title, dating before the conquest. In the old 
days, the " Coke " was the head Cabooeer in the absence of the Yevo- 
gan (Dr. M'Leod, p. 68). I cannot find the title now. The word is 
spelt with a complexity of error. The History gives Yavoughah ; Mr, 
Duncan, Avogaw and Avoga ; Captain Wilmot, Yavogah ; and others, 
Yavogar, showing how easily the H, the R, and the highly nasal N, may 
be confounded by unpractised ears. The French prefer Jevoghan, 
Commander Forbes, who realised the fact that Ffon is a monosyllabic 
tongue, but who did not take the trouble to ascertain the only important 
part of his discovery, namely, what the syllables are, produced the 
curious etymology Ee-a-boo-gan, 

ITie word is Yevo-gan, "White man's captain," — Whydah being held 
to be a white man's town. Yevo means a white man, the oibo or oyibo of 
the Egbas. Ye is a shadow, and vo signifies ripe or red. Gan has been ex- 
plained as a captain or chief, and must not be confounded with gan, metaL 

h2 



100 A MISSION TO GELELE. 

post, and the holder is the third dignitary of the 
kingdom. He is proposed by the Meu or second 
minister, his after patron, and he is installed by the 
King, under whose indirect protection he is. The 
Viceroy is surrounded by the cleverest spies and 
councillors ; on his own ground he is strong, but once 
in the capital he falls into the hands of his protector. 
He is ever liable to be summoned to Agbome,- and 
etiquette compels him to ride a wretched garron, upon 
which he is supported by his slaves. His soldiers may 
amount, not to 2000, as some say, but to 200. He is 
at once council, jury, and judge ; he cannot, however, 
put a Dahoman to death even for crime without send- 
ing him for examination to the King. He has un- 
limited powers of imprisonment and bastinado ; indeed, 
the local system seems to be that which kept the old 
British man-of-war in such grand discipline ; all are in 
ranks, and the superior " sticks" every one below him. 
He is great at embezzlement, and woe betide the 



Again, Commander Forbes and M. Wallon tell us that the P. N, of the 
Yevogan is Dagbah, Dagbwa, and Dagba. The phrase Da-gba implies 
' ' he holds a large gourd or calabash" — Whydah being, as it were, the king's 
cornucopia — it was a title which the present man took for himself. Mr. 
Duncan, vol. i.,p. in, erroneously explains the word to signify that the 
King would drink water with him— the strongest mark of friendship. 



A WALK BOUND WHTDAH. 101 

litigious wight whose cause falls into his hands. Both 
he and his lieutenant must be propitiated before he 
will forward a visitor's message to the King ; and both, 
though they can do Uttle to assist, are powerful in 
impeding progress.* However, a piece of silk, and a 
few bottles of French " 'tafia," suffice for each, and 
both vouchsafe a return in provisions. I reserve a 
personal description of the Yevo-gan till we meet him 
at Kana. 

The Yevo-gan's palace is a large enceinte to the 
north of the town, with four principal entrances. That 
on the north-east is the " Bwendemen." f It opens upon 
a square or space full of fetish huts, one of which 
covers^ the skull of the African wild buffalo, now extinct 
in these parts, and under the straggling trees deputa- 
tions are received. To the north is "Ganhori;" the 
western entrance is known as " Ohongaji ; " and the 
southern, leading to the Snake House, is "AgoU." The 
interior is the normal labyrinth of courts and tents, 
each with two doorways ; you reach the audience 

* The present snb-vieeroy being a cousin and a particular friend of 
the Eing, has unusual powers of persuasion ; hut such is by no means 
always the case. The "Prince," of whom more hereafter, is considered 
a firm friend to the English nation. 

t The first gate made when building the house is always so named. 



102 A MISSIOK TO GELELE. 

chamber after some twenty turnings, though perhaps 
it was a few yards from the entrance passage, and it is 
concealed, hke the owner's " wifery," by mud walls. 
The great man, after the usual formality of canes and 
comphments, causes visitors, if they allow itj to fare 
anticamera, till his toilette is satisfactory, in a palm- 
nut paved outhouse near his pony's stable. Dignity 
makes this demand ; the negro grandee must not 
appear curious or anxious to see his visitor, who will 
ensure a better reception next time by maMng the 
loudest demonstrations of indignation. The dignitary 
receives in a smaU clean verandah, where, as chairs 
may not be used by the heges of Dahome, he is 
found reclining upon the uncarpeted floor. He escorts 
the visitor beyond his walls, and he never fails to 
beg that a decent horse may be sent out to him from 
Europe, Asia, or the other quarters of the " in- 
habited quarter." 

Crossing Main Street from north to south, we proc^d 
to the south-west of the town, where stands the Bra- 
zihan fort, the residence of the de Souza family. The 
huge mud pile occupies the base of a rude tria^gle, 
called a square, under whose shady trees, in the 
mornings and evenings, black cattle muster strong. 



A WALK EOTIND WHYDAH. 103 

Smaller tenements, in the south of Europe style, have 
been added to both sides. The old man, however, 
would not inhabit the house on the proper right of the 
fort, from a superstitious fancy that it would be fatal to 
hira. The western turret or gable of the huge central 
building, which faces southwards, may be seen from the 
sea, affording an excellent mark to the aspiring gunner. 
The pecuHar feature of the Uhon-nukon,* or Pra(pa, is 
a circular wattling, six feet in diameter, planted round 
with the tall thunder-fetish shrub.f No one sees the 
interior, and even after fires that have calcined the 
live hedge, it is carefully covered with leaves. It is 
said to contain a round shot fired from the roads, 
probably out of an old long carronade (32-pounder, 
9 ft. 6 in. in length, and 56 cwt.), by Commander Hill, 
R.N., who, in 1844, succeeded Mr. Maclean as 
Governor of the Gold Coast. The missile fell opposite 
the house of M. Martinez, and was removed to this 
place, where it has ever since been held fetish. 

* Uhon (gate), and Nukon (before), i.e., the space before the gate. 

■^ By the natives it is called Ayyan or Soyyan ; held in the hand, a 
leaf prevents the gun from bursting, and the sticks are used in thunder- 
worship, hence the name in the text. It is a tall shrub, with broad 
ensiform leaves, like a Pandanus, but of a darker green, audit grows all 
about the coast, extending as far as Agbome. Sometimes it is pollarded, 
and in this state it is set round other sacred trees. 



104 A MISSION TO GELELE. 

The founder of the family, M. Francisco Fellis de 
Sousa or Souza, left Rio Janeiro in 1810, not, as Com- 
mander Forbes * says, a fugitive for poHtical crime, nor 
as Captain Canotf asserts, " a deserter from the arms 
of his imperial master," but simply as a peasant who 
■wished to see the world. He first settled at a place 
which he called Ajudo, J near Little Popo, and presently 
he became Governor of the Portuguese fort here. 
About 1843 he was raised to the Chachaship, the 
principal agency in commercial matters between the 
King and all strangers ; he thus became captain of the 
merchants, and the second dignitary at Whydah. As 
he could command refusal of all articles offered for 
sale, and he had the regulation of the " De " — alcavdla, 

* Vol. i. p. 196. Commander Forbes was also misinformed when he states 
" when Da (de) Souza died a boy and a girl were decapitated and buried 
with him, besides three men. who were sacrificed on the beach at 
Whydah (vol. i. p. 33). AH denominations at Whydah deny this; nor 
is it probable after the deceased's life-long opposition to this particular 
enormity. 

t Captain Canot ; or, Twenty Years of an African Slaver, Entertain- 
ing, but superficial ; the author manifestly does not know that " Cha- 
cha " is a title, not a name. 

X There are some four " Ajudo " hereabouts, all so called by the old 
De Souza, meaning " Deos me ajudo" — God helped me. Some wrongly 
write Ajido. Others prefer Ajuda, help, aid ; the full phrase being " Com 
ajuda de Deos ;" hence the Ajuda Palace, in Portugal. From directions 
of letters, I believe Ajuda and Ayuda to be the popular Portuguese and 
Brazilian names for Whydah. 



A WALK ROUND WHTDAH. 105 

octroi, or excise — lie became very wealthy. He was 
ever hospitable and generous to Mr. Duncan* and other 
Englishmen, although he owed to us the loss of a score 
of ships. He won the esteem of honest men, despite 
his slave-trading propensities, by discouraging torture 
and death ; whilst, unlike too many other whites, he 
systematically refused to be present at human sacrifice. 
When far advanced in life, he had the honour to entertain 
the Prince de Joinville, and he died in May, 1849. 

On the elder De Souza's demise, the Chachaship was 
contested by three of his one hundred children. Isidore, 
the King's favourite, succeeded ; but, like all the juniors 
and African born of the family, he departed life young. 
Followed Antonio, commonly called Kwaku, or Wed- 
nesday,f a debauched man, rich, prodigal, and bigoted ; 
he had thousands of armed and trained slaves ; he 
built a swish-house with rum instead of water, wishing 
to imitate the King, who for such purpose uses blood ; 

• " A more generous or benevolent man perhaps never existed," says 
that traveller (vol. i. p. 194. See also vol. ii. p. 295). 

t So called from the day of his birth, a Gold-Coast custom. The 
word is here corrupted to Coco. Kwabna (Tuesday) and Wednesday are 
"strong days" of birth; children that appear on Fridays, Saturdays, 
and Mondays are "weak as water." Mr. Duncan (vol. i. p. 193) 
remarks, " On no account wiU a native sleep with his head towards the 
sea, nor enter a new house to take possession as a dwelling on a Tuesday 
or Friday, both those days being reckoned unlucky." 



106 A MISSION TO GELELE. 

and lie threatened to compel Gezo perforce to become 
a Christian. His career was short, and he was suc- 
ceeded by his uterine brother,* Ignacio, whose mysterious 
fate has been mentioned. The present Chacha, popu- 
larly called S'or Chico, is " Francisco," also a son of the 
old De Souza, aged about forty, tinted between a 
mulatto and a quadroon, with features European in the 
upper half, and African below, a scant beard, and a not 
unpleasant expression of countenance. He has little 
power, and thus the whole authority of the place has 
been centered, much to the detriment of commerce, in 
the hands of the wicked old Yevo-gan. 

The family is charged with exercising a pernicious 
influence over the minds of the Xing and the people of 
Dahome. It is still numerous.f The daughters of the 



* The mother was a large woman from Agwe, dashed to the old 
Chacha, Her name was Akho-'si, i.e., King's Wife, but she had' no 
connection with royalty. 

t The following is a list of the present heads of the De Souza family, 
all being " Hijos de Whydah " : — 

1. Tranoisoo Fellis de Souza. 

2. Manoel ,, ,, 



3. Antonio 




3J 




4. Juliao 








5. Januario 




rj 




6. Candido 




if 




7, Antonio 




9J 


vulgarly called Pito, 


8. Andrea 




J1 





A WAIiK EOUND WHTDAH. 107 

house being too high to marry, temporarily honour 
the man who has the fortune to please them, and are 
said to reproduce in the BraziUan factory the state of 
morals that prevailed in the palaces of the old Persian 
kings and the Incas of Peru. 

Passing up the Ajudo Akhi 'men, or Ajudo Market, by 
■which we entered the town, we turn to the north-west, 
and once more pass into Main Street. Here we find the 
third bazar, Zo mai 'khi men, " Curfew market."* It was 
so called by the old Chacha, who would not allow the 
grass to be burned hereabouts, having a large store of 
gunpowder in Zomai House, a big swish building, now in 
ruins. There is nothing remarkable in this market. 



9. Julio FeUis de Souza. 

10. Lino „ 

11. Jose ,, ,, 

12. Pedro „ „ 

13. Ignacio ,, ,, 

The name? of the sisters who are at all distinguished, are — 

1. Maria Amalia Fellis de Souza. 

2. Sabina „ ,, 

3. Francisea „ „ 

4. Antonia ,, „ 

There are many young children ; ahout a hundred are known. The 
only grandson of any importance is Antonio Francisco de Souza, sen of 
"Kwaku," and aged about twenty-eight. The late Isidore left two- 
boys, Leandro Sanoho and Sioinio Agripo, and two girls, Maria das- 
Doses and Joanna Isidora, who are looked upon as Africans. 

' Zo (fire), Ma (not), I (come), 'Khi (from akhi, market), Men (in). 



108 A JVnSSION TO GELELE. 

Bending northwards, -we find the French fort, as 
usual — in these days, at least — the finest building in the 
place, with all the military air proper to the Grande 
Nation : it is, indeed, the only tenement that does not 
cry for repair. Still, it is a peaceful estabhshment, 
belonging to M. Regis (Aind), of Marseille, the well- 
known emigrationist now reduced to palm-oil. It 
occupies the site of the old French fort, whose governor, 
in the days of Louis XVI., had such influence over the 
country, and which in its career was twice destroyed 
by the Dahomans, whilst several governors lost their 
lives. Barbot* gives a detailed history of its original 
foundation in 1669—1671, by MM. Du Bourg and 
Caralof, with the consent of the King of Whydah, for 
the French "West Indian Company. The old traveller 
places the factory at " Pilleau or Pelleau" — names now 
unknown — " a little beyond the swamp, and two miles 
from the sea." It is badly situated ; the air hereabouts 
is malarious, and hotter than at the other three forts. 
Behind, or northwards, is Salam Fran^ais, or French 
Town, peopled, like the rest, by the descendants of the 



* Book 4, chap. i. Where also may he found a long account of the 
squabbles of the two founders, and the disputes with their seniors, the 
Dutch Company. 



A WALK BOUND WHYDAH. 109 

Fort grumettos. They are now reduced from 1500 
to a very small number, and they are considered a 
treacherous runaway race, the worst hammock-bearers 
at Whydah.* 

A marble tablet over the drawbridged gateway of 
the French fort informs us that it was restored by M. 
R6gis, in 1842, and it is said that the repairs cost as 
much as though it had been re-made with stone. The 
main building fronting the sea southwards is tiled, not 
thatched, a necessary precaution, as will be seen, 
against the fires here frequent, and it has a tall central 
belvedere. The two bastions to the north-east and 
south-west have been whitewashed and repaired ; the 
former, being nearer the town, mounts six guns, not 
including four fixed in the swish ; and the latter had a 
telegraph for signalling to the ships in the roads. 
Besides which, a battery without affuts lies on the 
ground opposite the entrance. The ditch is uncleaned 
and efficient, whilst the three remaining walls of the 

* The French factory is composed as follows :— 

1. M. Marius Daumas, agent en chef of the factories of M. Regis, 

since 1863 French consul for Whydah and Porto Novo (where 
he mostly resides), and chief of the "Whydah factory. 

2. M. B6raud. 

3. M. Ardisson. 

4. M. Pellegrin. 



110 A MISSION TO GELELE. 

enceinte are of coarse red clay, and by no means in 
good order, suggesting the idea of a " dicky," which is 
also characteristic. The immense compound contains 
a well, a cooperage, a smithy, a trellised arbour, and 
other necessaries. Outside the gateway it was pro- 
posed to found an establishment for the French mis- 
sion ers, who sensibly went eastwards, and found a 
site one to three degrees (F.) cooler. Here one of the 
agents attempted to plant cotton, and necessarily failed 
for want of regular labour. 

It is not unamusing to compare with fact M. Wal- 
lon's account of this factory. Its disinterestedness in 
supplying rival barraconniers with Zanzibar cowries, 
its high sense of honour, proyoking the hostility of the 
Yevo-gan, and its grand prospects as a civilizing and 
Christianizing agent, are dreams — not of the wise. The 
connection of France with Whydah has not been, and 
is not, a credit to our rivals ; nor is he their friend who 
tells them the contrary. The Maison R^gis is a barra- 
coon, a slave-yard, where, with detestable hypocrisy, 
"emigrants"* and "free labourers" were lodged in 
jail till they could be transported a loisir. Such is the 

' Most people know that with i)ie profession, " emigrant," like "cap- 
tive," means a purchased slave. 



A WALK EOUND WHYDAH. Ill 

establishment which a French naval officer pretends to 
praise. But M. Wallon himself, when in the " Dialmat," 
had proceeded to the capital in order to procure 40,000 
hands. If the house has become a centre of licit com- 
merce, it has not to thank its proprietor, his agents, or 
the officers that aided and abetted him. Finally, after 
the death of King Gezo, who mightily affected French- 
men, it has fallen into utter contempt ; the present ruler 
treats its gerant en chef as a servant. M. Daumas, 
although calling himself French consul, was, after his 
last visit to Kana, in 1863, ordered not to quit 
Whydah, and he was compelled to fly on board a 
French man-of-war. 

We now resume our route westwards, passing sundry 
fine houses, especially those of M. Nobre, a friend of 
Gezo, who during the same year followed his royal 
patron to the dark world, and of M. J. C. Muniz, whose 
African son has just come into possession of his pro- 
perty. Issuing from the habitations, we visit the western- 
most point of Whydah Town, the Zo Mai 'Khimen 
Kpota, or " Fire Come not in Market Hillock."* It is a 
swell in the open ground, which commands a full view 

* Kpota means a gentle rise of ground, opposed to So, a hill, and to 
So ddho (literally big hUl), a mountain. 



112 A MISSION TO GELELE. 

of the shipping. Here we may see the coffee-hke shrub 
which produces the fruit known on the Gold Coast as 
the "miraculous berry."* A little to the N.W. are two 
huge cotton trees ; that nearer the town is called Foli 
Hun, or Foil's Bombax, with the following legend 
attached to it. 

The Whydahs, assisted by the Popos, had made 
many a stout-hearted but vain attempt to recover their 
city, especially under their brave leader Shampo, a 
refugee Dahoman. This general growing old, was suc- 
ceeded in the command by his son Foli or Fori (the 
"Affurey" of the History), and, in 1763, when Tegb- 
wesun (Bossa Ahadi) was on the throne, the fugitives 
once more attacked his garrison. 

At first the Whydahs were successful ; they marched 

* The Fantis call it Sabla or Sambala (whict the Preface to the His- 
tory, p. viii., and Introduction, p. 5, turn into Assabah, and opine to be 
an oxyglyous) and the Ffon terms it Sisnah. It is the Ossesaossa of the 
Bonny E,., and grows everywhere on the Gold Coast and in the Bights. 
The fruit is a brah-like berry, cherry red and yellow, with a thin white 
pulp and a large black stone. It is hardly capable of making " a lime 
taste like a very ripe china orange, or vinegar like sweet wine" (loc. cit.), 
but it sweetens water with a cloying taste, and remains long upon the 
palate. Perhaps it might be useful in sugar making. Dr. M'Leod 
exaggerates still further its peculiarities — " Whoever eats this berry in 
the morning, must be content, at least for that day, to forego the 
natural flavour of every kind of food,' whether animal or vegetable" 
(pp. 21, 22). 



A WALK HOUND WHYDAH. 113 

in without opposition; and when old "Honnou,"* the 
viceroy, attempted to defend his town, they wounded 
him and repulsed his troops. "Baddely," the second 
in command, fought bravely, till, pressed by a superior 
force, he was compelled to shelter himself under the 
guns of the French fort, and the latter, although the 
enemy had begun to burn down the suburbs, ungrate- 
fully politic, fired nothing but blank cartridge to defend 
their friends. 

The "Whydahs and Popos, inspirited by this trea- 
cherous proceeding, advanced through the town ; after 
another action to the S.E. of, and just outside, the 
suburbs, where the G-odome entrance now is, they drove 
the enemy into the bush. When passing the EngUsh 
factory, one of the savage soldiery espied a white woman, 
Governor Goodson's " wife," combing her long hair, and 
protruding her head from the window, to see, I suppose, 
the " fun." Exclaiming, " What animal can that be 1 " 
the man pierced her throat with a musket-ball ; upon 
which the Englishman let fly a storm of grape-shot and 

* These names are from the History, which ignores the Governor's 
" wife," merely saying that Mr. Goodson had prepared to give the rebels 
a very warm reception, and fired into them accordingly. On the other 
hand, Eng Gezo has often told the tradition as above narrated. The 
"wife" might have been, and ten to one was, some fair mulattress. 



114 A MISSION TO GELELE. 

musket-bullets, ■which made a prodigious havoc amongst 
the friendly Whydahs, The Portuguese fort, suspect- 
ing some treachery, took up the fire, and all the others 
followed suit, thus completing the discomfiture of the 
townspeople. The Dahomans, who, under "Baddely," 
were lurking near, and collecting their men from the 
plantations, resumed the offensive with such fury, that 
they killed thirty out of thirty-two hostile umbrellas, or 
general officers. Foli, overwhelmed with grief and 
shame, sat down under that Bombax and shot himself. 
In memory of his deeds, the fourth market-day at 
Whydah is called Foli-'hun-glo.* 

This was the second occasion upon which the English 
gave Whydah to the Dahomans. Tegbwesun acknow- 
ledged that his good son had the sole merit of the 
victory, and the memory of " Ajangan " is stiU green in 
the land. To the present day the King always remarks 
officially to Englishmen vrho do not understand him, 
that from the first the British were the greatest friends 
of his family, f 

* Commander Forbes (vol. i. p. 114) says, "This was market-day at 
the four-day market at Porree." The I in. Foli is sounded somewhat 
like the peculiar Sanskrit I (35). 

t See in Commodore Wilmot's Despatch the usual garbled aoGount of 
this affair; such aa it is, howeTer, people believed it la Whydah till I 



A WALK EOUND WHYDAH. 115 

There is now no society in Whydah ; * the quondam 
millionaires retain theii" hospitality, but not the means 
of gratifying it. The old days of sporting, picnics, and 
processions, of dancing, loving, drinking, and playing, 
are gone, probably never to return. The place is tem- 
porarily ruined, and dull as dull can be, except when 
the occasional breaking of the blockade gives it a kind 
of galvanic life. Such was the case in October, 1863 ; 
the roads were stopped on the 7th, and three days 
afterwards a fine steamer, carrying 900 souls, got off 
between Godome and Jackin.f All the principal ven- 
turers gave a banquet, ending in a tripotage, which 
began at 4 p.m., and ended ten hours afterwards ; none 
but the members of the Lyons Mission were exempted 
from attendance ; even the non-slaving traders and 
others were there drinking pro-slavery toasts which 
would have given a philanthropist " fits." 

collected the true details. Some, indeed, and they were not few, referred 
it to the first capture of Whydah by the Dahomans. 

* Dr. M'Leod (A Voyage to Africa), in 1803, considers Whydah the 
" Circassia of Africa, not from the fairness, but from the glossy black- 
ness of the ladies' skins, and the docility of their dispositions." Com- 
mander Forbes (1849) seems to have suffered from the "meretricious 
gaze of the females," which he attributes to the " personal depravity of 
the slave merchants." I saw no signs of this debauchery ; the people 
were civil and respectful — the one thing needful in the African, 

t According to some, in the preceding month a brig had cleared from 
Grand Popo, carrying 300 head. 

I 2 



116 A MISSION TO GELELB. 

All here is now in transition state. Slave exporting, 
is like gambling, a form of intense excitement ■which 
becomes a passion ; it is said that after once shipping 
a man, one must try to ship another. And the natives 
of Whydah give the licit dealer scanty encouragement. 
Having lived so long without severer toil than kidnap- 
ping, they are too old to learn labour, they allow their 
houses to fall, their plantations to re-become bush, their 
streets to be half-grown with rank grass, and their 
swamps to reek undrained. 

Let us hope that a step in advance is now being 
taken. Much might be expected from the soldier-like 
discipline of Dahoman despotism, if compulsorily applied 
to honest labour. 



CHAPTER V. 

FROM WHYDAH TO ALLADA, THE HALF-WAY HOUSE. 

CoMM. RuxTOU left Whydah December 10, and our 
departure appeared imminent. Unfortunately, certain 
"Wen-san-gun,* or royal messengers, announced their 
arrival ; they had walked from the capital in three 
days, and though fire would not have made them own 
it, they required rest. 

The King had despatched two of his Akho 'si,t or 

* The French have duhbed these officers Sacadere, for what reason 
I know not. The English of old times called them " Half-heads," from, 
their shaving off a moiety of their wool ; in those days they wore a demi- 
dozen strings of human teeth over the shoulder to the knee. Kow few 
can display such decoration. Dr. M'Leod appropriately termed them 
the mortal messengers, in contradistinction to the immortals, sent, as 
will presently be explained, to the Shades. 

t Akho 'si properly means king's wife ; it is applied to the eunuchs, 
who, as customary throughout Yoruba, form part of the royal establish- 
ment. Mr. Duncan (vol. i. p. 275) signally mistakes the meaning of 
" king's wife." The operation is performed iu the palace, at the age of 
eighteen to twenty, by evulsion, others say by scission and extraction, 
and the victims remain anorchides. Of course many die ; sometimes, it 
is said, five out of six. There is great difficulty in Dahome about gaining 



118 A MISSION TO GELELE. 

eunuchs, and the senior, Mr, " De-adan-de," was a 
person of some dignity : had he been his master he 
could not have displayed it more haughtily ; but when 
we saw him at Agbome, his deportment became all ser- 
vility. The junior, Ya-mo-ji 'a, was remarkable only 
for the sable blackness of his skin, and for a compound 
prognathism, supernal and infernal, which, in the profile 
of his muzzle, suggested porcinity. These castrati 
spoke with manly organs, probably because they had 
been neutered at a late age ; moreover, in tropical lati- 
tudes, the painful change called the brealdng of the 
voice, is by no means the infliction of which the tem- 
perate climates complain. 

This par nobile of officials was accompanied by the 
Kakopwe,* one of the King's head servants, sent " to 
the outside " when great officers are to be summoned 
on " King's palaver " to the capital. The next in rank 
was fat So-kun,t the EngUsh guide, a nephew of the 

information touching these matters : the boldest speak in whispers when 
a stranger begins to question concerning what takes place " within." 
The names of our eunuch envoys were as follow : De (here), adan (brave) ; 
De (here) means " He is valiant in Dahome." Ta-mo-ji 'a is supposed to 
signify, " Cannot-get-such-a-son-to-be-born." 

* Kakopwe (in Forbes, Koao-peh) must not be confounded with the 
Kan-gbo-de (in Forbes, Camboodee), the Eing's body attendant, whose 
lieutenant he is. 

+ So-kun is an nnintelligible name in the " Bo-fetish." 



FEOM WHYDAH TO ALLADA. 119 

Meu, or second minister ; his " father," or patron, is the 
Buko-no, the EngHsh "landlord." So-kun -was duly 
provided with Bu-ko, his spy, from the " landlord's " 
household, a sharp and obliging lad, and this pair 
would keep the royal servants in check. As all ca- 
boceers hold their places ad placitum regis, our bevy of 
officials, amounting to ten in number, soon arranged 
about porters, hammock-men, and similar small fry. 

There is little to notice in the palaver which the 
messengers' arrival necessitated. We passed the usual 
compliments, and we drank the normal toasts. De- 
adan-de, before "giving King's word," produced his 
credentials, in the shape of a " shark stick," * a toma- 
hawk about two feet long, ending in a knob carved into 
a conventional Squalus, a bit of iron like a broken axe- 
edge protruding below the jaw ; an equally grotesque 
effigy of the "tiger of the deep," beaten out of a 
dollar, being tacked on to the upper part of the handle. 
" Cannot-get-such-a-son-to-be-born " had a carved 
" Hon stick," f whose shape is not easily distinguished 
from the aquatic animal. These emblems of valour 
are preferred by the present ruler to the "crocodile 

* Wa (shark), and kpo (a stick), 
t Kini-kini (lion), and kpo (a stick). 



120 A MISSION TO GELELB. 

stick," '• or the nail-armed crook.f -with which the late 
Gezo used to present his captains. 

The royal messengers sent every day to inquire after 
our healths, and the slave that bore the cane expected 
for such suit and service a glass of trade rum. This, at 
the capital, -will be done by all the great officers, and 
most regularly from the palace. It is hardly probable 
that the King knows anything about it ; and if the 
process becomes troublesome, it may readily be arrested, 
by telling the storekeeper to stop the liquor. As a 
rule, the Wen-san-gun delay the stranger for at least a 
week by the most specious pretences. They draw from 
him "subsistence money," — the old local word, — at 
about the rate of fourpence a day each; and when 
the journey ends they expect a piece of cloth, at the 
employer's discretion. Such are the paltry considera- 
tions which here waste the visitor's precious time. 

I gave the messengers to understand that if they 
were not ready in three days, they must remain 
behind, and afterwards overtake us. This put them 
on their mettle. Already our heavy luggage, carried 
by twenty-two porters, had been sent forward to the 

• Logun (crocodile), and kpo (a stick). 

t Ma (knob), and kpo (a stick). Mr. Duncan (toI. i. p. 226) gives 
sketches of these ■weapons. 



PEOM WHYDAH TO ALLADA. 121 

first stage, followed by a second gang of thirty-seven. 
Four sets, or thirty hammock-men, completed the 
equipage, making a total of ninety-nine mouths, includ- 
ing the messengers and guides, and not including 
interpreters and body servants.* 

On December 13th, all was ready. Before setting 
out, however, I must briefly sketch the party. Mr. 
Bernasko was accompanied by his son Tom, a small 
boy of eleven, who already spoke half-a-dozen of the 
coast dialects ; and Tom had his 'kla,f in the shape of 
" Dick," alias Richard Dosu, an imp ten years old, and 
looking five, whose devilries were a comedy. There were 
two interpreters, on the Dahoman principle. The first 
was John Mark, popularly called Mariki, or ]V[d,diki,J 
the Hun-to,§ or nominal head of the English Town, 



* In Appendix II. the reader will find a list of presents, supplies, and 
expenses required and incurred during six weeks' to two months' stay 
with the King of Dahome. 

tiOn the Gold Coast a confidential slave, who is killed when his master 
dies. 

X The Dahoman cannot articulate any terminal consonant, except the 
highly nasalized n ; he says " Tomu " for Tom, " Gunai 'tu " (goo'nait- 
'oo), for good night, and so forth. 

§ Literally " canoe father," a title given to merchant captains, go- 
vernors of petty places, head singers, and drummers. Uhun or Hun is 
the generic name for a vessel : thus yevo-hun is a white man's ship ; 
ajo-hun, a trading vessel ; ahwan-hun, a man-of-war, and zo-hun, a 
fire-ship, or steamer. 



122 A MISSION TO GELEEE. 

Whydah. He is the son of Mark Lemon, whom Com- 
mander Forbes describes as a " perfect Dahoman, too big 
a fool to be a rogue," and in whom Mr. Vice-Consul 
Fraser found a very fair average of rascality. John is 
great-grandson of an English corporal who commanded 
the fort under the second Governor James. After 
the fashion of the country, the founder of the family is 
buried in an inner room of his own home, and a table 
is annually "spread" for his old ghost to come and 
feed. I found John good-natured, obliging, and more 
than usually intelligent ; indeed, after a little drilling 
and scolding, he became a tolerable language master 
and interpreter. He has, however, no weight with the 
King, and — he is confessedly though partly an English- 
man — it made my blood boil to see the contempt with 
which he was treated by the negro officers, and the 
patience opposed by him to their injuriousness. 

The second interpreter was a very different man. 
Mr. Beccham was a Makhi slave " dashed " to the 
"Wesleyan Mission, and sent to Cape Coast Castle for 
education. "With the ready cunning of the servile, he 
at once introduced himself there as " Prince Bah;" and, 
such was his power of " brass," it was long before 
his base origin was found out. Returning to Agbome 



PEOM WHTDAH TO ALLADA. 123 

after many years, he made an impudent attempt to 
assist in rescuing from the palace two Dahoman 
girls, who, having also been brought up on the Gold 
Coast, could not endure a return home. The " prince " 
was seized, and handed over to the Meu or second 
minister, who in these lands is governor of Horse- 
monger Lane. It was a treat to see the face with 
which he described the horrors of his three days' 
incarceration — the heavy chains, the handful of grain, 
the cup of dirty water once per diem, and the nights 
on the hard floor, bitten by the Iwe worm,* which, in 
dread of a terrible bastinado, he did not dare to kill. 
The imprisonment, however, had completely cowed 
him ; he used to weep with fear if ordered to go 
anywhere, or to say anything, from which his vivid 
fancy could distil danger, and nothing but the strongest 
drink, constantly adhibited, carried him through his 
trials. 

The others were of less importance. Mr. Hilton, 
coloured tailor and barber, from the Gold Coast, called 
himself the ensign, and carried the flag of St. George. 
Having served on board an American ship, he had 

* The Iwe is probably the Italle of the Egbas, a grub bred in or issuing 
from mud floors, and celebrated for attacking those frho lie down. 



124 A MISSION TO GELELE. 

preserved the twang. He was also idle, useless, im- 
pudent, and, of course, a drunkard. On one occasion 
his cups led him to break into the King's harem, and 
but for the respect paid to his missionary master, he 
would have lost his head. John Valentine, formerly of 
the Mission, and the son of a white soldier, was the 
spy upon all our movements. Joseph was a Pope 
rascal, who had once before deserted and left me in 
the lurch at Agwe. And Menza Cook was, like most 
of the Gold Coast people, able in his art. The rest 
were the usual " tail," coming up, as the natives say, "to 
eat." These were, a youth from Danish Accra, called 
Hansen, because he had no other name; Jose Pinto, 
a Portuguese orphan, who was already no mean 
linguist ; and various catechumens, the slave boys of 
English Town, dashed by the King to Mr. Bernasko, 
and named Philip, Isaac Nahum, Laja (Elijah) Hoole, 
Sosu, and so forth. They were hideous to behold, 
as the African " hobbledehoy " always is ; and their 
gigantic joints and extremities, of which the head only 
was dwindled, seemed connected with their limbs by 
loose wires. Their other qualities were hunger, naked- 
ness, filth, and idleness. They spent nearly two months 
eating and drinking, sleeping and dozing, talking and 



FEOM WHYDAH TO ALLADA. 125 

laughing, quarrelling and gambling, before tliey put 
up for themselves a shed. It was one day's work. 
They never finished it. The first thing an African 
convert does is to claim, like the modern English con- 
vict, a life of utter sloth. 

The sun was already warming when our cortege 
wound, in the misty morning air, through the town 
entrance on the north.* It is sentinelled by an 
enormous Bombax, useless, but of a beauty and a 
grandeur well meriting the golden chains with which 
the nature-loving Persian hung his favourite plane. Its 
every branch is a tree, and its buttressing base measures 
150 feet in circumference: under its ample shade the 
ground is kept cleared for fetish meetings-f The 
natives call it Atin-daho, the Big Tree, or Atin Li-'hun, 
the " Cotton Tree (of the place) Li," the latter being a 
local name. Our six hammocks, including those of John, 
Mark, and the sharp boy Tom, were preceded by the 
youth Bu-ko, who, bearing the King's cane and a hide- 



* For the distances, altitudes, and other purely geographical features 
of the march, the reader is referred to Appendix I. 

t The characteristic feature of the East African "park-land" is the 
vivid ring of luscious verdure invariably sheltered under the shade of 
each large tree. Here, as in England, vegetation in such places is gene- 
rally deficient. 



126 A MISSION TO GELELE. 

■whip, easily cleared the path by driving all the carriers 
into the bush, and by dispersing even the juveniles, 
whose modesty was a phenomenon in African puerology. 
We traversed the town in a few minutes. The last 
house belongs to one Sogro, a caboceer or captain, called, 
like all others, " King's cousin :" here travellers re- 
turning from the interior halt for a few minutes, 
enabling their canes and party to precede them. Like 
most establishments of some pretensions in Dahome, 
the house has a tall entrance with a weather-thatch, 
and a few matted roofs project a little above the mud 
walls of the enceinte. 

The hammock in Dahome is not an unpleasant con- 
veyance, especially when the warmed back is at times 
cooled by walking. These barbarians, however, have 
not, like the Hindoos, invented a regular four-in- 
hand ; two men are easily tired, especially by standing 
still, which is wearisome to them as to loaded camels. 
When they reach a rough place, another pair, diving in 
between the usual number, roughly clutch the cloth at 
the rider's shoulders and heels, bumping, if possible, his 
pate against the pole. This explains the old traveller's 
complaint about being " trussed in a bag and tossed 
on negroes' heads." They do not carry on the shoulder, 



TEOM WHYDAH TO ALLADA. 127 

but on their skulls : the notably short and sturdy African 
negro neck* dictates the choice, and a thin coil of rags 
or dry leaves amply suffices for the defence of craniums 
formed rather for butting than for beauty. Our ham- 
mocks are of modest cottons, whereas the old factors 
used silks and broadcloths : before appearing in state, 
howeyer, we shall find something gaudy with red and 
blue. The cloths are nine feet long by four to five in 
breadth, and at both ends small lashings draw 'the 
conveyance together like the old net purse. A noose 
passes through these lashings, and the clews are then 
rove tight to pegs inserted into the frond of a bamboo 
tree {Raphia iiinifera). This pole is objectionable ; 
the brittle material often gives way, when a bad fall on 
the occiput is the result : it is better to send for a good 
Maderan article, which is strengthened with iron hooks 
instead of being weakened by peg-holes. The pole is 
nine feet long : over it is shipped a fringed or valanced 
awning, fortified by three cross laths, and provided with 
a running Hue to tilt it down on the side next the sun. 
The noisier the hammock-men are, and the more they 

* The shortness of the pure negro's neck is one of his most character - 
istio features : hence he and his female in European attire always 
appear high-shouldered. 



128 A MISSION TO GELELE. 

abuse their employer — ^iu their mother tongues — the 
better for him. 

Beyond Sogro's place, with its maize-fields, and the 
scattered line of lofty Bombax and umbrella-trees which 
backs the town, we issued upon a rolling plain, open and 
fair to view. The tall thick Guinea grass, which is 
being burned down before the dry-season sowing, rises 
from old ridges that evidence no remote clearing in a 
land ever liable to be overflowed with bush hke the 
waves of the sea. The bright leek-green vegetation of 
the young herbage stands out gaudily from the black 
charred stems and the red loam of the ground. The 
road is excellent, ten to twelve feet wide, sandy, and 
lately cleared of grass : it is thronged with carriers in 
Indian file, mostly women, bearing huge loads lashed to 
the usual Yoruba basket. The monotony of the surface 
is relieved by clumps and groves of palm-tree, which 
are stunted in the open, and which tower in the bush 
to exceeding height, seeking goodly light, air, and sun. 
In other places the palmyra {P. nobilis or Borassus 
flabelliformis), and the oil-palm (^Elais Guineensis), 
are scattered like the trees of an English orchard, all 
the latter being numbered, with a view to revenue.* 

* This variety everywhere yields the hest palm wine, which is supe- 



FEOM WHTDAH TO ALLADA. 129 

The palmyra (locally called cocoa, and by Mr. Duncan 
" cabbage pa,lni") is a noble tree, useful as ornamental. 
The hard wood makes excellent cabinet-work, and is so 
durable that after 200 years rafters remain as sound as 
when first cut. Of course it is barbarously wasted. 
The fruit, which hangs in picturesque corymbs about 
the rounded neck, resembles a bunch of red and rusty 
oranges, but four times the size ; hard and stringy, it is 
still edible, with a slight flavour of gingerbread, and 
after bush fires it strews the ground with a faint per- 
nor to the finest cider ; but as the people fell the trees like Erumen, 
they are forbidden by a paternal government, which encourages the 
growth for exporting oil, to make it, except " in the bush." When 
rumless, they must content themselves with bamboo-wine, which tastes 
like soapsuds laced with vinegar. Although one might hardly expect it, 
the yield of the cocoa-nut tree is by no means well-flavoured. 

The palm, after being felled, is allowed to lie for a couple of days, the 
cabbage is removed for food, and in its place a pipe, generally a bit of 
papaw-stalk, conducts the sap into the calabash below. At times, to 
make the juice flow more freely, a lighted stick is thrust into the hole, 
which is afterwards scraped clear of charred wood. This "toddy" is 
the drink of the maritime regions, where it is most impudently watered, 
and we shall not taste it beyond the Agrime swamp. 

The oil-palm extends from the sea to the north of Agbome, at least 
fifty-two direct miles, but how much further I cannot say. It usually 
bears fruit twice per annum, in six to eight bunches at a time, especially 
during a wet year. The nut is best here when gathered during the 
lains ; whereas in the Bight of Biafra, at that time it becomes watery, 
and the yield is trodden out by both sexes, in canoe-shaped troughs. 

The palm oil of Dahome is of excellent quality, and a Mohamed Ali 
would soon make the land too rich for slave exporting. But these are 
negroes. 



130 A MISSION TO GELELE. 

fume of the mango. Here the people, unlike those of 
the Congo River, do not draw wine from the palmyra. 
When young the head of the bulging stem is often twice 
as thick as at the foot, giving to the tree an inverted 
appearance. "When full grown, the central and sym- 
metrical wave adds, as in the Grecian column, greatly 
to its beauty and solidity. In old age, it often loses its 
head-tuft, and appears from afar like a huge flag-staff. 
There is music also in the fan-palm ; its flabelliform 
leaves rustle in the sea-breeze like the rushing of waters 
or the pattering of rain upon thick foliage — delicious 
sounds in a thirsty land. 

After a quarter-of-an-hour we had crossed a bulge 
of grassy ground whose inland counterslope leads down 
to a narrow but a dense transverse line of bush, Bombax, 
and broad-leaved figs. Here the smell of the hardly 
eatable wild mango mingles with many a baser savour. 
The jungle-strip through which our path winds may 
be 200 yards in breadth, and is the result of the supe- 
rior humidity diffused by the Agbana water. This 
marigot runs from east to west. In May, I found it 
thigh deep with brown horsepond lying upon a fetid 
black bed of vegetable decay : in December, it wets the 
calf; in February, it will show only caked mud, and 



I 



FEOM WHTDAH TO AIjLADA. 131 

during the rains it will be troublesome to travellers. 
The reader will remember that I have already shown 
him * a miniature facsimile of this country. 

The foul marigot was easily crossed; we then ascended 
another wave of ground, and found on its flat surface 
the little village of Yonu-Pakhon, half buried in the 
plantain-bush to our right. Another descent led into 
a thick copse, where, during the inundations, water 
must run strongly in a hollow parallel with the road. 
Again a gentle ascent to clear and level ground, placed 
us amongst the small plantations outlying the grey 
thatches and the -mat huts of Savi. Mixed with a 
large proportion of bush, were poor maize and wilted 
cassava, which, in the form of the insipid and unnu- 
tritious farinha,t is the staff of hfe at Whydah, and in 
Southern Dahome. There are also mangos, plantains, a 



* Chapter III. 

t The full phrase is Farinha de pao (wood-meal), heing exceedingly- 
like saw-dust. The History (Introd. p. 4) sensibly remarks, " It is the 
cheapest and least nutritious of all the substitutes for bread in the 
tropical climates; although it has lately been introduced into this 
country (England), and is now sold by the grocers and apothecaries at 
a high price, as a pretended remedy for consumption, under the name of 
tapioca." The same words, nearly a century afterwards, will apply to the 
Eevalenta Arabiea, the flour of " Adas," or lentils, which no Egyptian 
FeUah wiU eat if he can help it. And yet "this nutritious and deli- 
cious food," &c. 



132 A MISSION TO GELELE. 

few cocoa-nuts, oranges, the African apple growing 
almost wild, and orchards of well-trimmed oil-palmg. 

The sound of drumming now halted us to form up 
for a ceremonious entrance ; at two hours before noon 
the sun made me regret the comfortable obscurity of 
my former march. But "it had to be done." Our 
stools — the traveller must not forget these articles 
when visiting Dahome — were ranged under shady trees, 
and presently the envoys of Akponi, the caboceer, who 
is under the Yevo-gan of Whydah, came out dancing and 
taboring a welcome. We remounted, and entering 
Savi took post under a tall but thin-leaved ficus. In 
the most public part of the town, we could see nothing 
but " compounds," huts, and hovels of weather-browned 
palm-thatch, with here and there a white caUco flag 
emerging from the bush or the fruit trees.* This, 
however, is a characteristic of all Dahoman towns, 
which are made to look meanest from the road. The 
grandees, like the sub-regulus Chyudaton, who are 
ever liable to be summoned north, here have " palaces " 

* Commander Forbes writes of Savi^" It has one peculiarity: ia 
Whydah all the houses are of clay ; in Savee, of palm-branches, and 
■\-ery low." Had he wandered through the town, he would have found 
many tenements of the same description as, and some even better than, 
those of "Whydah. 



FfiOM WHYDAH TO ALL AD A. 133 

for inns. I was shown a fine house of red swish, 
banded with red and blue pigments, in an enceinte 
containing all sorts of conveniences for white travellers, 
with a detached kitchen, feeding rooms, and sleeping 
huts for servants. The aneroid proved that Savi is 
44 feet higher than Whydah town ; and we tasted, 
the last for a time, the vivifying sea breeze. 

" Savi " is written " Savee " by Commander Forbes ; 
Sabi, or Sabec (the latter is probably a misprint, copied 
into the Ethiopic Directory), by others ; and Xavier, 
by Mr. Norris.* It was the ancient capital of the 
kingdom of Hwe-dah, Pidah, or Whydah, a royaume not 
exceeding the principality of Lichtenstein, but provided 
with an army of 200,000, not of seventy, soldiers. f 
Bosman, Barbot, and Phillips, at the end of the last 
century, dwelt lengthily upon its wealth, its fertility, 
and its wonderful populousness, the rascality of its 
people, and the villany of its royal animalculse. In 1722 
the despot of Whydah, upon whose court that of mo- 
dern Dahome seems to have been modelled, could afford 

* See Preface. It is not a little curious that the map and the ortho- 
graphy of 1772 are still copied into our best charts of 1864, 

t In quoting these apparently impossible forces, it must ever be remem- 
bered that the African army consists of the whole of the male population 
between 18 and 50. Thus it would be easy to raise 200,000 men from 
a total of 2,000,000 souls — in Negroland, not in Europe. 



134 A MISSION TO GELELE. 

to " dash " a half-hundredweight of gold-dust to Cap- 
tain, afterwards Sir Challoner Ogle, for capturing off 
Cape Lopez, and duly hanging, the pirate Roberts, 
in his ship, aptly named the " Royal Fortune," Savi 
was separated from its northern neighbour, AUada 
(Ardrah), by a dangerous swamp, which we shall pre- 
sently cross. In these lands, where there are neither 
streets nor public buildings, and where the best houses 
are of swish, we must not expect an approach to archi- 
tectural antiquities ; nothing now remains of the ancient 
glories of Savi ; even in A.D. 1772, we are told, enly 
the moats of the many European forts could be traced. 
A long trench, with, a tall growth of trees, was the sole 
remnant of the palace occupied by the Whydah kings, 
whose descendants, even in their exile, held their 
ancient capital sacred. Savi is now a fine large village, 
a market, and a halting-place for travellers ; its popu-' 
lation has been rated at 4,000, which I would reduce 
by one cypher.* 

Our reception at Savi must be described ; it will save 
the trouble of repetition. At every village, even where 
only two dancers could be mustered, upon us was the 
ceremony inflicted. Advancing in our hammocks, which 

* Mr. Duncan rates the population of " Savay " at 150 souls. 



FEOM WHYDAH TO ALLADA. 135 

were preceded by men capering, firing, and sliouting 
songs of welcome, we saw the Caboceer Akponi pre- 
pared to receive us in state under the ragged ficus on 
the west of the town. Shaded by a tattered and bat- 
tered old white calico umbrella, he sat upon a tall Gold- 
Coast stool, with a smaller edition cut out of the samo 
block supporting his naked feet. He Avas a quiet- 
looking senior, in a striped waist-cloth ; a single blue 
Popo bead,* strung with a human incisor to a thread 
— a chiefly decoration, — represented the rest of his 
toilette. Our seats were ranged opposite the caboceer, 
— mine in the centre, Mr. Cruikshank's on the right 
the Yewe-nof on my left, the interpreters behind, and 
the rest anywhere. After greetings and compliments, 
ensued a ceremony never afterwards neglected — the 
" King's wife" was whispered by the chief, and fre- 
quently she returned with a large calabash, covered by a 
drinking cup of the same material, full of pure water.ij: 

* A semi-mineral bead of many kinds, dug up in this part of the 
■world, and a subject of some discussion. Every West African book 
alludes to it, and I have no new information that would justify a detailed 
description. 

■j- Tewe-no, or God-mother, i.e., Grod man, is the name taken by 
Protestant missionaries, to distinguish themselves from Vodun-no, Fetish- 
mother, or Fetish man. The French, seem to prefer Mau-no, which is, 
as will be found, equally objectionable. 

X The water on this road is generally white as milk, and sometimes 



136 A' MISSION TO GELELE. 

De-Adan-de explained to the interpreter, who reported 
to us, that this luxury -was sent to wash our mouths 
and to cool our hearts after the march. The officer 
first tasted it, aud we all followed his example, The 
xenium, or guest-gift, was then placed before us. It 
varied with the wealth of the place. In a thriving 
town it consisted of a huge pot of water, a calabash of 
poor palm-oil, and a bowl of purer stuff, baskets of 
oranges and papaws, boiled maize, beans, and yams, 
cooked manioc, " akansan" wrapped in leaves, " cankey," 
" agidi," " fufu," and a very tasty pudding, called " wo." * 

bitter to boot. The price, during the dry season, varies from 40 cowries 
or one string, to four times that sum, per gallon, in a country where a 
man can feed himself for 120 shells a day. . 

* Akausan is corn (maize), finely levigated by means of cankey stones, 
•which resemble the " rubstones" of Ireland. Here, as in Europe, the in- 
strument precedes the " quera ;" it is the rudest and the mSst laborious 
•way of grinding, but the best. The nether stone is a smooth granite 
slab, convex behind, and above hollowed into a concavity by use : it is 
disposed at an angle, sloping from the grinder, so as to allow the ground 
material to fall off. Some 30 to 40 grains of ■well-soaked maize are 
placed upon it, to be bruised and pounded ■with a circular stone rubber 
or pestle, tapering, for a handle, at both ends. The housewives work 
like painters grinding colours, often stopping to ■wet the corn with 
■water, and they are unpleasant to behold. The material is then placed 
in ■wallets like cowrie-bags, and during one day is allowed to ferment in 
the sun. It is afterwards mixed with water boiled in country pots, and 
laboured till the sediment, which is good for fattening sheep, goats, and 
pigs, subsides. The clearer portion is again strained, and boiled to the 
consistency of gruel. It hardens like blancmange when it cools; and 
lastly, it is packed in leaves. 



FEOM WHYDAH TO AIiLADA. 137 

A chicken, a fowl, or a goat denote a rich man. Where 
the King has palaces the "wives forward dishes of palaver 
sauce, stews of pork and poultry, rich with the Occro,* 
and similar savoury dishes. The return was rum or gin. 
Owing, however, to the carelessness of So-kun, our boxes 
were hurried forwards, and we were obliged to borrow 
liquor on the road. The guides expect a glass every 
morning and evening when they come to salute, and 
the hammock-men also have a ration of rum. So So- 
kun's hours were duly made bitter. 



This African sueeedaneum for bread is wholesome, nutritious, cooling, 
and slightly acidulated — the sour and the bitter are instinctively pre- 
ferred in hot, damp, and bile-exciting climates. It is almost always 
prociirable in Toruba, a few cowries per diem support a man, and if 
well made, as by the women of Hausa and the parts adjoining, it will 
be relished by the traveller after a week's practice. Mixed with water 
and drunk, it forms a cool subacid drink, suitable for hot weather. 

I cannot but suspect that' the "Akassa Creek," which connects the 
Brass and Ifun rivers, derives its name from this " stafl' of life." 

Agidi and cankey are coarser stuff's ; lio is stronger than akansan : 
kaji is the smallest and highest-flavoured, and there are other varieties, 
as numerous as our breads. Fufu is mashed yam. " Wo," pronounced 
Waw, and by some travellers written Dab-a-dab, or Dabb-adab, is a 
kind of hasty pudding, eaten cold ; a thick pancake of maize or Guinea 
corn-flour, mixed with boiling water, and stirred about with sticks till 
thickened to the consistency of batter ; it is then picked out with bits 
of gourd, and moulded till cold in a shallow calabash. "We found it by 
no means unpalatable, especially when it came from " the palace." The 
Dahomans, it will be seen, are anti-Banting, and fond of azymous 
food. 

* Hibiscus esculentus, in "Whydah called Nye 'un ; in Agbome, Nenun. 



138 A MISSION TO GELELE. 

After the offering was given and acknowledged, the 
dance began. As at Whydah, most of the fighting men 
had gone to the capital for the annual " Customs," and 
the largest number found in any village on the route 
was sixteen. Dressed in war tunics and armed with 
muskets, they were aligned by the master of cere- 
monies, horse-tail in hand, opposite the band, which 
consisted of the usual Chingufu or cymbals, horns, 
rattles, and drums. The latter, in a full band, com- 
prises the "grande caisse," supported between the 
performer's legs, and beaten with two clubs a foot and 
a half long : the treble to this bass is a tom-tom or 
tabor, suspended to the musician's neck, and tapped 
with the hand palm. There is also a connecting link 
between the two, a drum four to five feet long by one 
in diameter, open behind, and supported on bamboo 
trestles. The head is smeared with " awon," the gum 
of a tree, and it is operated upon by means of a stick 
in the right hand, and in the other a dwarf rattan bow 
with a leathern thong, the part applied. At the King's 
levees we shall meet with other drums. 

Amongst the two hundred spectators were seven of 
the chief's elder wives, mostly fat, one white with leper 
spotSj and all clad in simple blue baft. They passed 



FROM WHYDAH TO ALLADA. 139 

to our right, and, presenting their backs, danced 
opposite a branch band of four rattles and otabals, 
seated upon the ground. They performed mincingly, 
threatened to raise their clothes by slightly lifting the 
corners, and they -were presently joined by the 
youngest children, whose diminutive limbs tottered 
over the loose dusty ground. 

Meanwhile, the twelve warriors carried us back to 
the days of the Curetes. They began with the " agility 
dance," all advancing in line. Then one would spring 
to the fore, paddling, stamping, agitating the lowjer 
part of his person ; above jerking his elbows as if he 
wished to make the bones dash together ; and pirouet- 
ting with legs far apart, one raised, and after the 
turning, brought down to the ground not on toe-tip, 
but on the whole length and breadth of the vasty sole, 
he would call forth the general applause of the lookers- 
on, who clapped with their palms time for the band and 
humoured the whims of the performer. 

When perspiration made every coat shine like a sea- 
lion's hide, the men stood and the women sat to sing 
the chorus, which was, 

" The flesh liveth not without the bone." 



140 A MISSION TO GELELE. 

This part was worthy of the Italian opera. There 
was the same time-honoured action, the same meaning- 
less head-shaking of the artists when addressing one 
another about nothing, the identical extending and 
waving the right arm to no purpose, and the verit- 
able Shakspeare-old stride and stand, — as if human 
being out of Bedlam ever progressed in that way. 
All was professional as a chorus of peasants in Son- 
nambula. 

Akponi then paraded stridingly before his men, 
bo3,sting of his devotion to the King, and his readiness 
to serve the Akhosu-Jono, the " King's strangers." 
Coming forward, he interpellated me. I was safe 
within my slave's lands. If I ordered him to jump 
(suiting the action to the word), jump he must ; if told 
to fly (fluttering his arms), he must become a bird ; and 
if sent beneath the earth (smoothing the dust with his 
hand), he must go there. Dahomans delight in these 
ridiculous displays, which are those of the Court, and 
such is the true African's innate vanity, the King takes 
equal pleasure in hearing the absurdest vaunts, whilst 
the most Hibernian " blarney " is most prodigally 
spouted at him by his lieges. 

The speeches were delivered with immense vehe- 



FEOM WHYDAH TO ALLADA. l4l 

mence of voice and gesture : at times a screaming 
question was addressed to the bystanders, who replied 
with a loud long-drawn groan of general assent and 
applause. At times the normal Dahoman "present 
arras " varied the proceedings. It was acknowledged by 
removing the hat and thrice waving the arm. As the 
" decapitation dance " began, we excused ourselves on 
account of the sun, and retired to breakfast. If the 
performance take place at a late hour, it is better to 
give the chief a rendezvous at one's quarters in the 
evening ; for the chorus will be followed by a dance, 
and the dance by another chorus, and so on till the 
village can no more. 

When the sun began to slope, we took ceremonious 
leave of Akponi, the caboceer, who preceded us with 
umbrella and band, whilst the musketeers followed our 
hammocks. A few paces over descending ground led 
us through the rude market, where a knot of women 

« 

sat before their baskets of edibles. Then we struck into 
the beginning of the bush (or forest) land, which, with 
a few clearin'gs, extends from Savi to Allada : it is so 
thick that axes would be required by those wishing to 
leave the path. We halted at the De-nun, or octroi- 
house, ever the entrance and exit of Dahoman, and. 



142 A MISSION TO GELELE. 

indeed, of all Yoruba , towns. The place of profit 
-was denoted by a Jo-susu, or wind-luck,* which 
commonly appears at gates and entrances. It is a 
gallery of three thin poles, under which the road 
passes. From the horizontal limb depends a mat four 
feet square, painted with a St. Andrew's cross in 
red, in black, or in both mixed, and where the four 
arms meet a cock is crucified, like St. Peter, head 
downwards. As will appear, tricks are played with 
crucifixes in Dahome, and it is impossible to judge 
whether the Jo-susu is an aboriginal or an imported 
idea distorted. The unoffending "bird that warned 
Peter of his fall," appears in pubhc always gagged by a 
thong passed between the mandibles and tied behind 
the head : a rooster may crow in the house, but if he 
give tongue on the highway or in the market-place, he 
is confiscated to the " market master," or to the fetish 
man. I could find no reason for the custom, but "we 
'custom :" it is probably only an item of the whimsical 
perquisites which form part of the plundering system 

* Jo or Jo-hun means the wind; Siisn, luck or good fortune. It is 
a charm to prevent a bad wind (in the Kisawahili tongue, P'hepo, wind 
and demon or bad ghost, are synonymous) entering the house, and the 
fowl is crucified as a scapegoat. One was placed by the landlord over 
the gate of our house at Agbome, but I " abolished " it. 



FROM WHYDAH TO AI^LADA. 143 

of all semi-barbarous hierarchical communities. The 
turnpike is universal throughout these lands. A rope is 
stretched by the collector across the road, and is not 
let down till all have paid their cowries.* The octrqi 
is not unreasonable,! but most of the market folk being 
•women, there is always a tremendous clatter. Fetish 
and tax-paying, I have said, go together. We were 
greeted by Ahopanu, the head publican, and the priest, 
who presented us with water and two fowls. They 
apologized for there being no food, and declared that, 
expecting us, they had cooked five days ago, — which 
was probably true. 

After leaving the De-nun, we came to a wall of stiff 
grass, and a short descent leading to the Nyin- 

* Cowries, it must te remembered, are merchandise, and the price 
Taries accordingly : at present they are abundant, and therefore cheap. 
The dollar (4s. Gd.) now buys 2J heads at Whydah and Agbome, 3 heads 
and 20 strings at Lagos and Abeoliuta. The head, therefore, once worth 
a dollar, whence its name, now represents in Dahome Is. 9^d., and the 
string, lid. and a fraction; whilst 8 cowries are equal to a cent. There 
are a number of names for this shell-coin amongst the natives, beginning 
■with a unit and ending with tons of thousands. Indeed high numbers 
can be counted by the natives only with cowrie nomenclature. 

+ The bullock pays 1 head of Zanzibar ' ' blues," or large cheap cowries ; 
the goat or sheep 10-15 strings ; a basket of a dozen fowls 5-10 strings ; 
a small pot of palm-oil (5 gallons), or a basket of grain (30 lbs.), 5 
strings; whilst wood and water are not taxed. The port-dues of 
"Whydah and Godome are of course different ; moreover, they vary with 
every reign. 



144 A MISSION TO GELELE. 

sin* Swamp. It is now about 150 feet broad, and 
waist deep ; during the rains it is much worse. The 
banks are a forest of fern, of hght green pandanus, 
and of dull herbaceous shrubs : the water is dark as 
coffee-grounds, reposing upon foul and feculent black 
mud, into which the porters sink to mid-calf To the 
right is a corduroy road, rudely made with rugged tree 
trunks, of which men avail themselves when arrived at 
the deepest part. During my last visit it was almost im- 
practicable ; it is now a little better, and somewhat like 
the old " railway " of the western states of the Union ; 
in February we shall find it repaired. The swamp 
flows, after rains, out of and again into the Whydah 
Lagoon, thus converting at that time the site of the 
modern Whydah town into a "continental island." 
This was known to the old mappers, who, however, 
have either made the northern arm of the lake stream 
too considerable, or that feature has in the lapse of 
time greatly shrunk. Mr. Norris (1772) speaks of it 
as a pretty deep and rapid river, with shelter for 
numerous elephants, and in old times it was bridged 
over with wooden piles, covered with faggots and 
hurdles, and annually repaired. 

* This is in the old Whydah language, at present not intelligible. | 

I 



FEOM WHYDAH TO ALLADA. 145 

The Nyin-sin swamp, which separates the old king- 
dom of Whydah from its northern neighbours, ToH and 
Allada, is a historical feature. The last king of Savi 
was Kufon, the Boabdil of his country ; he had ascended 
the throne at the age of eighteen, and he had speedily 
sunk into an effeminate and bloated debauchee. In 
1708, when the old king died, there had been a great 
civil war for the succession, many had fled, and others, 
especially the chiefs, had been killed ; for years the race> 
demoralised by coast life, had shunned arms, and only 
plebeians would consent to be generals over slave- 
soldiers : Whydah was thus ripe for the gathering. 

The warrior King, Agaja Dosu of Agbome, after 
taking Allada with dreadful slaughter in 1724,* deter- 

* The earliest sketch of Dahome is a letter dated Abomey, N'ovemtet 
27, 1724, from Mr. Bulfinch Lambe (not Lamb), ageat at Allada for 
the EDglish African Company, addressed to Mr. Tinker (not Tucker) the 
commandant of the English fort, Whydah. The capture of Allada is 
graphically, and in the main faithfully, described; and Commander Forbes 
found it so curious and truthful that he reprinted it in his Appendix, 
No. 1, from the end of " Smith's New Yoyage to Guinea" (1745). 

Mr. Lambe quitted Agbome about April, 1726. According to Captain 
Snelgrave, he took with him, by the King's order, a Jackin negro, named 
Tom, who had been made prisoner at Allada, and who, speaking English, 
was sent to see England, and to bring back a report for the King's ears. 
Instead of this he sold Tom to a gentleman in Maryland. Then hearing 
in Antigua, in 1728, that the King had promised to him a shipload of 
slaves if he came back in time, he persuaded Tom's master to give him 
up, and returned with him to England in 1731. 

VOL. I. L 



146 A MISSION TO GELELE. 

mined to subjugate Whydali. Kufon contented iimself 
witLi declaring that he would turn his enemy into a 
menial slave. Whereupon Agaja attacked the northern 
provinces of "Wliydah, which were under the hereditary 
government of a great caboceer called " Appragah."* 
The latter applied for assistance to head-quarters, and 
enemies at court caused him to be ignored : after a 
weak defence he submitted to Dahome, who received 
him kindly and presently restored him to his pos- 
sessions. 

Agaja then encamped upon the northern edge of this 
Nyin-sin swamp. He had no boats, his army could pass 
the river only by fording, and even this was imprac- 
ticable except at the present path, where 500 resolute 
men could have repulsed a host. The infatuated 
"WhydahSj however, instead of defending their frontier 
line, were contented to place with great ceremony 
Danh, the fetish snake, Dan-like, in the path. 

rinding it was too late to revisit Africa after five years, Lamte forged 
a letter from the King of Dahome to George II., and made Tom Dahoman 
ambassador, under the name of Prince Adomo Oroonoko Tomo. " Prince 
Tom " was a great success till Captain Snelgrave ridiculed English ore- 
dulity, the King's letter was declared supposititious by the Lords of 
Trade, and the slave-ambassador was sent back to his own countrj, 
"where, no doubt, he made an advantageous report of the sagacity and 
penetration of our countrymen." 

' I can learn nothing of this word, which occurs in the History. 



PROM WHYDAH TO ALLADA. 147 

Agaja had retired upon Allada to levy his whole 
force, leaving the field army under his general. The 
latter seeing only a snake to oppose progress, ordered 
200 resolute fellows to try the ford. They not only 
crossed it unimpeded, but were able to penetrate into 
the capital. 

The outguards of the town were asleep, it being 
3 p.m., and when they were awakened by the shouting 
and sounds of martial music, all fled, crying that the 
Dahoman army had passed the river. The massacre 
rivalled that of Allada, the altars of the gods and the 
ancestral tombs were deluged with the blood of 4000 
men. Kofun, however, and many of his train, escaped 
to the English fort, Whydah, after which they found 
their way to the islands near Popo. 

Thus Savi and Whydah, in the beginning of March, 
1727, became part of the empire of Dahome. 

Crossing the Nyin-sin swamp, which requires five to 
fifteen minutes, according to the state of the bridge, we 
found ourselves once more on a solid path of red sand, 
rising regularly to a country of bush, of clearings, and 
of thin palmyra forest. The sun began to burn, and 
we looked in vain for shade, which the broad road 
rendered impossible. The termites arhorum showed us 

L 2 



148 A MISSION TO GELELE. 

their large nests hanging like huge black Avens from the 
white throats of the trunks and boughs. After crossing 
another serration of thick strong bush, tall grass walls, 
and -wild trees, we fell into a densely wooded descent, 
whose sole is occupied by the Adangwin'" or Toli 
Water : it was approached by fetish huts and charred 
trees. We found it almost dry ; so will it be in Feb- 
ruary : in last May and June, however, it was a mixture 
of peat-bog and of horsepond, almost as black and filthy 
as its neighbour. Then began a regular ascent of steps 
in the land upon whose summit a loud drumming and 
singing informed us that we were approaching the 
terminus of the stage — Toli. The aneroid denoted a 
decided rise (140 feet) from Savi. The best and 
thickest part of the town lies to the east of the road : 
we were, however, led round the western suburbs, 
where we found the " corrobory " in full force, and 
not a few of the performers " unco' fou." 

There were two umbrellas under a shady tree. The 
blue belonged to a silver-armletted f caboceer, Ahwan- 

* This is also in the old 'Whydah tougue. 

t These are made of dollars beaten out thin, hollow cj-linders, half a 
foot long, fastened with hooks and holes, with plain surfaces or with 
grotesque figures. Most of them are made at Agbome ; some show, by 
the human heads upon them, that they are of European origin. 



PKOM WHTDAH TO ALLADA. 149 

ho, or " Avar belly," a blear-eyed senior hard to deal with, 
as are all King Gezo's ancient officials. The white was 
of Wubikha, junior governor, and reputed to be our 
friend: a dark, fat, smiling, "jolly" individual, with 
a loose pig-tail of white cotton threads, each rove on to 
one of his many necklaces of beads and coral, and 
hanging half way down his spine. As we took our 
seats before the band and snapped fingers with the 
chiefs, the circle lengthened into an oval, broken where 
women were singing at the opposite end. There was 
some peculiarity in the dance, which was opened in the 
usual way by the two governors. Came the black- 
smith * bringing his anvil, and holding with pincers the 
hot iron which he had been hammering : he showed us 
the bullets with which his master was preparing for 
war, and capered with his craft-instruments held high 
above his head. The missiles were badly-fitting bits 
of cut bar, subcircular, and all facets ; they must fly 
wide, and they cannot hit hard. Then rushed up the 



* The blacksmith in these lands is not an oliject of superstition ; the 
highest craftsman is the King's Huntoji or silversmith. The instru- 
ments are rude in the extreme; the anvil is a half-buried rock, the 
bellows are of common African type, the hammer is a cone of iron held 
in the hand, and the grindstone is a bit of fine close granite, shaped like 
the article with which the English mower whets his scythe. 



150 A MISSION TO GELELE. 

carpenter, saw and plane in hand, made an address, 
and danced with his tools en I'air. Followed the 
elephant hunters, braves, with blackened frontispieces ; 
the bards, who are also captains ; and the w^omen, who 
performed rather prettily — compared with Savi. Lastly, 
the chorus gave us a taste of its quality. After half- 
an-hour we bowed to the caboceers, and escorted by 
Wubikha, who promised the rest of the ballet in the 
evening, we retired from the sun. 

Toli, also written Tollee, Toree, and by Barbot Terry,* 
was in old times an independent state measuring about 
four leagues in circumference. Kingdoms in tliis part of 
Africa were not unlike those of England when she 
numbered 16 of E. Saxons, 14 of E. Angles, and 
1 7 in Kent ; and kings are like those of Ireland in the 
days of St. Patrick, when 200 were killed in one battle. 
It is now impossible to find the site of " Foulan or 
Foulaen, the seaport or principal town of the Terry 
country, seated on the Torry river, which runs almost 
east and west to Great Popo." The latter feature, 
ihowever, can be nothing but the AdangM'in swamp, 
which, after nearly two centuries of filling up, is now 

* Bartot (Book 4) gives a fair account of this little place in the days 
of its independence. 



FEOM WHYDAH TO ALLADA. lol 

stagnant. Possibly, also, there may be upheaval in 
the land. Dahome has lately felt an earthquake, and 
already during my short stay on the West African 
coast, the shore about Accra is hardly to be recognised. 
, Toll is now a large market : the interior is fully 
equal to Savi, which it a little excels in population. 
The position, at the head of a plateau, with its fine view 
of the terminal fall to the south, is beautiful, and at 
dawn the thermometer showed 70 deg. (F.) The air 
is said to be unusually healthy. 

We found lodgings at the house of Antonio Dosu, 
known as Dosu Yevo, or the " after-twin white man :"'"' 
he was lying ill with Guinea worm at Whydah, and his 
establishment was not in a flourishing condition. The 
flibbertygibbet, Richard Dosu, his son, soon brought us 
the necessaries for dinner, and being in no want of 
time, we resolved to pass the night at Toli. 

After the event of the day, we were conducted b}^ 
Wubikha, the good-tempered, to see the end of the 
dance. It was the merriest evening spent on the 
march — perhaps during the whole of our stay in Dahome. 



* Dosu is the general name of a boy born after twins ; he is called 
Tevo, or white man, from having been educated in a civilised manner 
at Bahia. 



152 A MISSION TO GELELE. 

Dr. M'Leod would have compared it to the " revelry of 
devils and vritches as witnessed by poor Tam 0' Shanter 
in Halloway Kirk." I confess to have enjoyed the 
"demoniac scene." All the best-looking girls were 
habited in men's straw hats, with breast-cloths girt 
crosswise to imitate the soldieresses of the capital, and 
a little attention to them took wonderful effect. The 
airs were simple but harmonious, and could re- 
form any recitative save that of the Gran' Maestro 
Verdi, on whom all Europe delights beyond the 
minima contentos node Britannos. And when we 
clapped palms to the measure, the buoyant gaiety of 
the caboceers knew no bounds ; it became a manifesta 
phrenesis. The chiefs placed their weapons in our 
hands as a call to dance, but explaining that the King 
must first see the novelty, we passed on, as is the 
custom, the knives to our servants, who performed 
vicariously. The crisis was when double flasks of gin 
were presented to the danseurs and the danseuses : we . 
retired deafened by the din. The tough nerve and the 
hard brain of the negro find excitement only in the 
loudest and shrillest sounds ; he is hke the children in 
England, who, at all times delighted with blowing off 
powder, will grease the gun's muzzle to increase the 



FEOM WHYDAH TO ALLADA. 153 

report. What causes headache and cerebral fatigue to the 
white man, only titillates the callous African sensoria. 

After sunrise we set out down a path ten feet wide, 
en route to Azohwe, our resting-place. Beyond Toli, 
around which there are great fires before planting for 
the rainy season, grass disappeared except in the clear- 
ings. There were traces of cardamoms in the dense 
bush ; * the shrubs and tall trees formed deep lanes 
which promised a cool march. Hardly had we left the 
town, when we were stopped by four fetish men, 
drumming, singing, and capering in the raw clammy 
morning air ; the exercise appeared as inappropriate to 
the hour as that " dawn- wine " of which the Persian 
poets sing so lovingly. There was a pretty maize 
plantation on our left, with a tall fence of matted palm- 
leaves, and a door of the same material. The road 
narrowed from ten feet to three, and assumed the 
semblance of the noble natural avenues that beautify 
the lower parts of Fernando Po. Nothing could be 
softer and more picturesque than the contrast of the tall 
white spars with the twisted spiral creepers ; nothing 



* On the Toffo road we afterwards found them in flower and fruit ; the 
latter is eaten at Bahome, and, as will be seen, forms part of the Sing's 
diet on campaigns. 



134 A MISSION TO GELELE. 

could be more delicate than the transparent lacery and 
filigree of the upper foliage picked out from the 
milky blue background of the heavenly vault that 
lent to the verdure a portion of its own azure. The 
shadow of the smallest shrub purpled the earth with a 
lovely distinctness, and the play of light and shade in 
the forest made a study fit for Claude Lorraine. After 
the normal stage, which never exceeded six miles, we 
reached a little market-place called Azohwe ; it was 
approached by a decided fall, although the aneroid 
showed but a trifling descent. 

Azohwe, the half-way house between Toll and Allada, 
derives its name from a man who ruled there in the 
days of Agaja the Conqueror. It lies on the left of 
the way showing a few thatches above a wall of red 
clay, and it is everywhere girt by a noble forest, The 
market is held outside the settlement under the ficus 
and fetish trees that form its approach ; at that hour 
it was poorly attended. We were kindly received by 
the people, and an old woman from EngUsh Town, 
Whydah, made us exceedingly comfortable. After 
breakfasting in a cool hut, and enduring the necessary 
amount of dancing and drumming, drinking and wast- 
ing powder, we bade adieu to Azohwe. 



PEOM WHYDAII TO ALLADA. 155 

The road became a lane of shrubbery with the 
brightest flowers, red and blue, pink and yellow, 
governed here and there by a queenly white lily. We 
saw none of the " blossoms of the air," the gorgeous 
butterflies, which I had admired before the rains ; all 
were modest white and 'yellow. The animal which 
typifies the human animula, acquires strange barl 
habits in these lands ; no one would sing " I'd be a 
butterfly," after disturbing one of its repasts.'"" 

Ensued sundry long flats and well-wooded ascents, 
terminating in a large grass clearing, which, here and 
there patched with palms, bush, and forest, showed that 
we were entering an extensive place. At noon we 
cried Do-ddo If at a cleanly swept De-nun, where 
fetish sheds swarmed. We were welcomed with 
water and provisions by the well-meaning old publican 
So-kun Do-gan, who brought in person a carafon of 
muscadel wine for ourselves, and a bottle of gin for 
those thirsty souls, our attendants. 

* About the bad habits of these "butterfly schools," see Mr. Duncan, 
Vol. I. p. 209. He clapped his hat upon the heap, and secured fifty to 
sixty of all sorts and colours. 

•j- Let down (the hammock), opposed to Zeiji, raise it up ! But Dedde ! 
Dedde! means softly ! like the Fanti "Bleo." The monosyllabic yerb 
in Dahoman when repeated, seems to reduplicate the middle consonant, 
e.g., Do! Do! becomes Doddo ! 



156 A MISSION TO GELELE. 

After force complimens we resumed hammocks and 
traversed the maize plantations ; on our left were 
detached houses and long palaver sheds, dark verandahs 
formed by the thatched eaves. A few minutes took 
us to the great square, a copy in parvo of the grande 
place at Agbome. The parallelogram had scatters of 
trees and fetish huts, and on the south-west was a 
Singbo* or double-storied tenement of red cla}"-, with 
five shuttered windows over the royal gateway. This, 
out of Whydah, is a royal style of abode, and is not 
permitted to strangers or to subjects. The palace 
compound appears to be a mass of bush and palm ; 
as usual, it cannot be entered, because the King's 
women and female slaves occupy it, and every gap is 
sedulously closed. At the north-west end, under the 
normal shed projecting from the palace wall, were three 
umbrellas, light blue, dark blue, and white, denoting 
the several dignities of the owners. 

In comphment to the royal abode we were carried 
three times round the square, a large and noisy band 
following my hammock. Then dismounting, we ex- 



* Singbo, Siagbo-men or Singbo-eji, are terms applied to all double- 
storied buildings, as, e.g., the forts at Whydah. Hence the " Simbome " 
of Commandant Forbes. 



FROM WHYDAH TO ALL AD A. 157 

changed greetings ■with the acting chief caboceer, the 
Menjo-ten.* He was a fine middle-aged man with 
sQver bracelets, his colleagues wearing brass. These, 
like the Tunisian decorations, show the differences of 
rank. He is said to be friendly to the English, and he 
certainly proved himself so on that occasion. Remark- 
ing the extreme solar heat, he led us at once to the 
house of the old Meu, four bare walls apparently con- 
verted into a caravanserai. Here we definitively 
learned, to the general sorrow, that all our boxes had 
been, by the stupidity or rascality of the English 
guide, carried on to the capital. 

* Menjo (man born). Ten (in the place). His principal is the Ak- 
pulogan. 

In Dahoman names and titles the following terminations mostly 
occur : — 

Men (with peculiarly nasal If, sounding like "me") "in," asDanh-ho- 
men, and Agbo-men. In many local names it appears almost pleonastic, 
and thus corresponds with the Wi (in) of the Kisawahili and East African 
dialects, e.g., Kilima-ni, Ufa 'u-ni. 

-HO, mother, carrier, master of, etc. 

-nun, mouth, side, man. 

'Si, from Asi, a wife. 

-ten, prefix or affix, in the place, e.g., ten-che-men, in my place, 
Also -gon, e.g., Aita-gon, monkey's place. 

-to {taw), father, or " he who does," e.g., lou-to, he who kills. 

-ton (with nasal n), belonging to, e.g., Beecham-ton-e, it is Beeoham's 
property. 

-vi, a child, the son of. 



158 A MISSION TO GELELE. 

Allada is called by older authors Ardrali,* another 
instance of lambdacism, confusing the L and the 
R.f The Ethiopic Directory gives EssaamJ and 
Aratakassu or Alatakassu. It is the ancient capital 

* In the oldest authors, Bosnian, and Barbot, it is called Great 
Ardrah, and is placed at the distance of sixteen leagues from its port, 
Little Ardrah, or Offra, with which it was connected by a good and 
spacious road. The latter is clearly our modern " Porto Novo " — New 
Haven — which the Yorubas call "Ijashe," and the Popos " Hwebonu." 
Hence some writers, as Mr. Norris (1772), make Ardrah, or Assem, on 
the Lagoon, and Ardrah, or AUadah, in the interior. So Commander 
Torbes (Yol. I. p. 12) speaks of "Ardrah, whose capital AUahdah still 
remains." 

"Porto Novo" proper is the old "beach" or port of Hwebonu, and 
is mentioned in the History. It lies four to five miles from its main 
town, and was rebuilt by M. J. D. Martinez. We have blunderingly 
transferred its name to the chief settlement on the Lagoon. Unless read 
by this light, the History will in places — -for instance, the troubles be- 
tween Allada (Porto Novo) and Dahome, in 1786 — be unintelligible. 

■f The Popos and Dahomans have the same lallation as the Chinese, 
who call rum "lum." So the Genoese confuse the sounds in the word 
"gloria," and the Neapolitans transpose the letters, as Galibardi for 
Garibaldi. 

X A long account of Allada, and description of the state and dignity of 
the king, are given by Barbot, Book 4, Chap. II. But he derived his 
description from hearsay. "We can hardly accept the spacious and well- 
built houses, the fine gardens, the cavalry, and other such details. The 
kings, however, appear to have been comparatively civilised. Alkeny, 
or Tezy, was educated at S. Thome, with a tincture of Christianity, 
and at the age of seventy he sent one D. Matteo Lopez as his ambassador 
extraordinary to the Court of France. From Barbot we also learn that 
about 1700 the Moslems were so powerful at Allada, that their great 
" Marabou " had the privilege of seeing the king night and day. This 
enables tis to explain Essaam or Assem by the Arab, i.e., Aazem or the 
Greater (town). 



FEOM "WHTDAH TO ALLADA. 139 

of a kingdom somewhat larger than Whydah, bounded 
on the north by the Agrime swamp, and southwards 
by ToU. The Dahomans look upon it with reverence 
as the cradle of their race. The king does not build 
his own palace of swish till he has sat on the sacred 
stool of his ancestors in AUada House, and has been 
invested with a fine silk coat, which completes his inau- 
guration.* 

The tradition touching Allada, which is not found in 
books, but is known to every boy in the kingdom, 
is this, and it explains how the error of making 
two Ardrahs arose. About A.D. 1620, an old and 
wealthy king of Allada proper died, and left his 
property to his three sons. These agreed that the 
eldest should reign in his fathers stead, which he did, 
in peace and prosperity, under the name of Allada 
'Khosu, or King of Allada.t " De," the youngest, or 
some say the second, rounded the Upper Nohwe or 
Denham Waters of our charts, and founded Hwebonu, 
which we have since known as Little Ardrah and Porto 
Novo. Hence the Dahoman king still calls him of 

* The History mentions this ceremony (p. 227). As will be seen, the 
present King is not yet duly " crowned." 

t This explains the Alatakassu of the Directory, a confusion, between 
the King's title and the name of the place. 



160 A MISSION TO GELELE. 

Hwebonu " brother." The cadet Dako (the " Tacoo- 
doonou of our histories) -went north, crossed the Agrime 
swamp, settled at a place called "TJhwa-we," and less 
correctly, Hawowi,* between Kana and Agbome, where 
the Adan-we palace was afterwards built. Hence the 
History tells us that " the original capital of Dahome 
was " Dawhee,"t between the towns of Calmina (Kana) 
and Abomey, at about ninety miles from the sea 
coast." 

TJhwawe belonged to a chief named Awesu, who 
allowed the ambitious stranger to settle there. Dako, 
by degrees becoming powerful, encroached upon a 
neighbouring kinglet, named Danh, the Snake or Rain- 
bow. As his followers greatly increased in number, 
and he was ever asking more ground from Danh, the 
latter exclaimed, in wrath, " Soon thou wilt build in 
my belly ! " Dako bided his time, slew the king, and 
erected over his corpse the old palace of Dahome,| 

* It lies on both sides of the road, and the people are still a distinct 
race from the Ffons proper or Dahomans. 

+ Which some writers, e.g., the author of the Preface to the History, 
have determined, irrnch against its grain, to be the Dautna of Leo 
Africanus, corrupted in Plancius' map to " Dauina," and misprinted by 
Commander Forbes "Dauna." 

X The legend may arise from the name ; one suspiciously like it (and 
these things can hardly happen in pairs) will presently he found in the 



FfiOM "WHYDAH TO ALLADA. 161 

"in Danh's (or the Snake's) belly." Hereupon the 
Ffons * changed their name to Dahomans ; f and 
thus, about 1625, arose the once great military empire 
familiar to the ears of Europe. 

The kingdoms of Dahome and Allada were friendly, 

word Agri-go-men. The " History of Dahomy " explains the word by 
"The house in Da's helly," remarking in a note, "The belly, in the 
Dahoman tongue, is homy." But the nasal n and the terminal aspirate 
in Danh are sensible. Moreover the English slur at the end of Homy 
is here inadmissible. 

The word Ho, " venter" is articulated with the guttural Arabic Ha (j.) 
sometimes, though erroneously, confounded with the Spanish Jota, which 
is the Semitic Kha (^). Ho-men (stomach in) means the ilia. Thus 
the full compound word would be Dareh-Ao-me« (meaning either 
"Danh's intestines," or "In Danh's beUy"). The people prefer the 
latter. This nasal n being unmanageable, both to reader and printer, I 
discard for " Dahome." The public, however, is requested to pronounce 
Dah-ome like Ashan-ti instead of Dah6my and Ashantl. The Por- 
tuguese, who are weak at gutturals, get over the Semitic Ha by changing 
it into a g, — " Dagom^." 

* The, History informs us that the Dahomans were formerly called 
Foys, and other authors have changed the word to Fohi, Fay, and 
Pouin. It is clearly derived from Ffon, which some write Ffun and 
Efon, the old national name for the Dahoman and his language. I am 
unable to state whether it has a common derivation with the so-called 
Efong people of Kakanda, living between Toruba Proper and the Niger 
and Kwara rivers. What makes me suspect a mysterious and forgotten 
connection is the prevalence of the Afa practice (see Chap. XII.) in 
Dahome, which arose in Ife of Kakanda (Wanderings^in West Africa. 
Abeokuta. Chap. Y.). Ffon must not be confounded with Eftttti, the 
language of a single tribe, Winnebah, on the Gold Coast. Those writers 
are in error who call the Dahoman tongue " Ewe." 

X In their vernacular, Danh-Ao-men-nure is a Dahome man, a Daho- 
man. The word Dahome is applied first and primarily to the old palace : 
secondly, to the capital, Agbome : thirdly, to the whole empire. 



162 A MISSION TO GELELE. 

as became brethren, till 1724, -when Agaja, the Scourge 
of Grod in these regions, resolved to open a road from 
the interior to the sea. Mr. Bulfinch Lambe, to whom 
allusion has been made, described, in his short account 
of that war (" that resulted in the capture of Ardrah, 
of which he was an unwilling witness"), the savage 
power and state of the conquering northerner. Being 
" shut up in a house by the king and old Blanco, as 
soon as the cry of war came," the white man narrowly 
escaped the death which hundreds found in the flames. 
A fellow hauled him over the wall, and he was carried 
through the town to the king's quarters, where the 
general was, and though that officer was in a great 
hurry, and flushed with victory, he took the stranger 
kindly by the hand, and gave him a dram, "which was 
some comfort to him." When Mr. Lambe went out, 
" there was no stirring for bodies without heads, and 
had it rained blood, it could not have lain thicker on 
the ground," whilst the slaves were being counted by 
giving a " bouge " * to each. After this he was led 

* A corruption of the Portuguese " bnso," cowrie. The names used 
by Mr. Lambe and his contemporaries for measures of shells, are :— 
40 Bouges = 1 Toky (or Toki), i.e., a string. 
6 Toky = 1 Gallinha (because it was the price of a fowl), cor- 
responding with our " bunch." 



FROM WHYDAH TO ALLADA. 163 

by the conqueror to the capital. He appears to have 
been a poor-spirited thing ; he whines, curHke, about his 
confinement, and he is not ashamed to write to the 
Enghsh governor at Whydah, — " If there is any cast- 
off woman, either white or mulatto, that can be per- 
suaded to come to this country, either to be the king's 
wife or else practise her old trade, I should gain His 
Majesty's heart entirely by it, and he would believe 
anything I say about my going and returning again 
with more white men from the Company." * 

One of Agaja's " strong names " or titles is Allada 
Kho, or Lord of Aliada. The town, however, once 
said to be nine miles round, never recovered after the 
dreadful slaughter of its inhabitants, and, imhke Why- 
dah, quietly submitted to incorporation with Dahome. 
It is now a large market, and a village more important 
than Toll, but nothing more. 

Allada is well situated on a platform, and its climate 
is comparatively salubrious. Drinking water is said to 

5 Gallinhas = 1 Ackey, then worth 2s. 6c?. 
4 Ackeys = 1 Grand Cahess (i.e., Cabeya or head), worth 10s. 
It is a pleasant money, requiring a man to carry 21. 
* Even in West Africa the new American doctrine of miscegenation, 
in which the white woman must succumb to the " splendours of imperial 
(negro) manhood," though at times practised by the vilest of slavers, 
has been ever generally despised. 

M 2 



164 A MISSION TO GELBLE. 

be procurable, after half-an-hour's walk, from a deep 
hollow to the east and south-east ; it is not only 
plentiful, but sweeter and clearer than any found between 
Whydah and Agbome. The stranger, however, must 
obtain royal permission to visit the place, and will 
probably fail. There may be a stream flowing to the 
Nohwe or Denham Waters, but the mysterious fetish 
town, buried in the bush, and hidden from white eyes, 
is, I think, a fiction of the EngUsh fort, Whydah. 

AUada is the Tours or the Sienna of Dahorae, where 
the purest Ffon is spoken. At Agbome the aspirates 
and gutturals are exaggerated, the effect, perhaps, of a 
colder climate and a more rugged land. Whydah, on the 
contrary, unduly softens the articulation ; as in Egypt,, 
this may be attributed to the damp heat and con- 
sequent languor of the seaboard. At the port town, 
as may be imagined, there is a debased European 
patois. A Whydah man will say to you, "Nao tern 
cowries pour choppy choppy." 

The evening concluded with the usual presents, and 
dancing on a very small scale. The caboceers joined 
their slaves, hence the polish of these barbarians, 
compared with our poor churlish clowns. The small 
boys, armed with sabre de bois, — the ^vKwav liaxaipav 



FEOM WHTDAH TO ALLADA. 165 

— ■ mingled amongst their elders, sans shyness or 
mauvaise horde, the Britannic curse. As usual, the 
dance was all antics, very excellent fooling. Few 
people, and no warriors, appeared. Six weeks after- 
wards, we learned that a large body of male and 
female soldiery, marching to attack Jabatan, a frontier 
town, were lurking behind the palace walls. 

The night was calm, clear, and cool, with an ex- 
ceedingly heavy dew. During the day, the trees had 
been blackened and the sky speckled by flights of 
reddish bats,* swarming like gnats or flies. The queer 
chirp of these modern pterodactyles, and the melodious 
gazouillement f of birds in the brake, awoke us at the 
earliest dawn. 

* Captain Phillips notices bats the size of a blackbird at Savi. They 
abound between "Wbydah and Agbome ; at the latter place they always 
flew from north to south over our heads about an hour before sunset. 
The Egbas have a distinct word for fruit eaten by bats, showing that 
the animal extends through Southern Yoruba. It is a fine large species, 
two feet across the wings, and is very lengthily described by Mr. Duncan, 
Vol. I. pp. 129—131. 

f This is a French word, but I cannot help it — let reviewers say what 
they will. The sound of z in the song of "West African birds is salient ; 
our insipid " warbling " is tolerable and not to be endured. I distinctly 
deny that English or any other language contains all the desirable 
shades of expression ; and I cannot see why, in these days, when French 
is familiar to us as in the times of William the Conqueror, we should be 
condemned for borrowing from it. "Kot your Italianos; I loves a 
simple English ballad," appears to underlie the feeling. 



168 A MISSION TO GELELE. 

were obliged by civility to descend from our hammocks, 
and to receive from the chief Atakpa the customary 
gifts. 

After another mile we entered Hen-vi — " Hold the 
child " — so called because, like Sienna in Tuscany, it is 
supposed to open its heart wider than its gates. It is 
also known as Henvi Do-vo (vaw), or Henvi the Red- 
walled, aftd our " blind travellers ". have corrupted it to 
Hawee or Havee. Like all those towns between AUada^ 
and the capital, it has its tattered " palace," and a 
fetish-house in somewhat better preservation. A 
tolerable-sized village, and surrounded by igiant trees, 
it looked pleasant and cool, though the sky was bathed 
in the burning light of the tropical sun. There is a 
market, but the water is bad and dear, and provisions 
are so scarce that the price of the leanest chicken is 
two shilHngs. There is, however, tolerable palm-wine 
brought from the bush. At Henvi sets off" the north- 
western road, which, when the Agrime swamp is bad, 
leads to the capital : it is, as will be seen, longer, but 
easier. 

We placed our stools next a tree opposite the large 
gateway of the royal abode, and were entertained with 
the usual dance. Here, however, there was something 



FEOM ALLADA TO AGEIME. 169 

of novelty, — the first of the " Araazons " made their 
appearance. The four soldieresses were armed with 
muskets, and habited in tunics and white calottes, with 
two blue patches, meant for crocodiles. They were com- 
manded by an old woman in a man's straw hat, a 
green waistcoat, a white shirt, put on like the breeches 
of the good King Dagobert — d I'envers — a blue waist- 
cloth, and a sash of white cahco. The virago directed 
the dance and song with an ironed ferule, and her head 
was shaded, by way of umbrella, with a peculiar shrub, 
called on the Gold Coast " God's Tree."* The few men 
showed us some attempts at tumbling and walking 
upon their hands. Two of the women dancers were of 
abnormal size, nearly six feet tall, and of proportional 
breadth, whilst generally the men were smooth, full- 
breasted, round-limbed, and effeminate-looking. Such, 
on the other hand, was the size of the female skeleton, 
and the muscular development of the frame, that in 
many cases femineity could be detected only by the 
bosom. I have no doubt that this physical superiority 
of the " working sex," led in the Popo and Dahoman 



* Tammi Dueh. Its prickly stem throws off at the summit three 
leafy shoots; the old Portuguese utilized this vegetable hizarrerie as 
^t. Patrick is said to have done with the shamrock. 



170 A MISSION TO GELELE. 

race to the employment of women as fighters.* They 
are the domestic servants, the ploughboys, and the 
porters, and Gallegos, the field hands, and market cattle 
of the nation, — why should they not also be soldiers 1 
In other matters they are by no means companions 
meet for men : the latter show a dawn of the intel- 
lectual, whilst the former is purely animal — bestial. 
Hence, according to some, the inordinate polygamy of 
the race. 

After breakfasting in the house of a good old man, 
one of the local Buko-no, or Diviners, we bade adieu 
to Henvi of the Red walls. In places the path was 
girt with an impenetrable herbaceous growth, in others 
there rose on either hand noble hedges of forest trees : 
here the wintry leaves still strewed the ground, there 
the jungle waxed thinner, suggesting the possibility of 
passage. Amongst the long white llianas, some thick as 
a man's leg, and bracing down Cotton-woods eighty feet 
high, I thought to recognise the gum-elastic creeper: 
the Europeans, however, speak only of a ficus which 
supplies a kind of caoutchouc. 

A short hour placed us at Whe-gbo, a small place 
on the right of the road. My interpreters explained 

* * In the Bonny Kiver the women appear to me larger than the men. 



PEOM ALLADA TO AGEIME. 171 

the name thus. On this spot the three royal brothers 
of Allada disputed long and fierily about each one's 
chance of being the greatest. As the question could 
not be settled, a councillor cried out, "No one can 
decide {whe) a palaver so great (gbo)." Upon that 
ground the present hamlet is built. 

When we had disposed ourselves under the fig and 
fetish trees abounding at Whe-gbo, the war-chief Suza- 
kon danced at the head of his half-a-dozen fellows, and 
waxed inordinately fierce. It is not a little startling to 
see how suddenly, the war-dress doffed, these ruflliug 
heroes subside into the servile and timid " nigger." 
Though the little knot of Falstaff 's recruits knew not 
how decently to cut off an imaginary head, their great 
captain boasted that the next month would see him in 
Abeokuta. An exceedingly fat old woman joined her 
confrere in the improvise song, and professed her readi- 
ness to do or die by his side : we shook our heads 
gravely, and the bystanders roared with laughter. 
When the Ajablaku or civilian-chief had made his pre- 
sent, we urged on the hammock-men, who were becoming 
frantic for Ahan, their rum. 

Noon had sped before we left Whe-gbo, The trees 
became even more gigantic than before, and presently 



172 A MISSION TO GELELE. 

"we fell into a long descent ; it is tlie second step, 
Azohwe being the first. After two hours we reached 
Akpwe, at the southern extremity of the Great Swamp. 

Its name is explained to be the fetish or super- 
natural part of the Loko or " Sauce-wood " tree. In old 
times it belonged to a people called Aizoh, who, until 
conquered by Dahome, extended from near Agrime to 
Toli, and from this place westwards to Toflfo,* where 
they are mixed with the Ffons. It contains a royal 
palace, or rather precincts of a guttered tumble-down 
wall, with a barn-like shed built over the gate, where 
travellers may rest. We went to the house of the 
chief, who, not expecting us, had refused admission to 
our men. The jDOorest market on the road was found 
at Akpwe. As we near the capital the population 
becomes thinner, and the display less, whilst a dozen 
women and children are seen for every one man. The 
principal performers in the dance were our own porters. 

On December 17th, almost before the birds had 
begun their matins, we arose and sent forward our 
fellows : this morning we were to cross the Marsh, the 
terror of travellers during the wet season. The people 
term it " Ko," the Swamp, which appears to be a proper 

* For a short account of Toffo, see Chap. XXIV. 



FEOM AliLADA TO AGEIME. 173 

name, as a common bog is called " Agbabti." The Euro- 
peans know it by the Portuguese word, "Lama" — mire 
or mud. For better distinction I propose to name it the 
" Agrime Swamp." This northern limit separated the 
old kingdom, Allada, from the original Dahome. To 
the latter it is still an important strategical point 
moating it to the south : at certain seasons it would be 
almost impossible for the lightest of field artillery to 
cross it.* The marshy forest forms a zone said to cut 
through Dahome from the lagoon of Hwebonu (Porto 
Novo) eastward, to that of Porto Seguro on the west. 
Travellers differ about its course, and many declare 
it to be stagnant. On the western road, however, I 
found it distinctly draining to the west, and I therefore 
conclude that it feeds the Haho, Avon, or Porto Seguro 
Water. From December till June it may be crossed in 
two to three hours, and thus its breadth may be six to 
seven miles. Between July and November it is a 
severe task : visitors to the King have spent two days 
of continuous toil with ten hammock-men who were up 
to their armpits in water, to their calves in mire, and 
subject to perpetual tripping by the network of tree- 

* IJortli of Agrime th.e heaviest battering traia would find no diffi- 
culty till it reaches the MakM mountains. 



174 A MISSION TO GELELE. 

roots catching their feet. The present has been an 
unusually dry year : we shall traverse the greater part 
without knowing it. 

Whilst all was en grisaille, we struck, staff in hand, 
through the " dismal forest," as old writers call it. The 
hammock became useless, the mud, hard-caked hke that 
frozen by a German winter, wounds the feet of the 
bearers ; they march at the rate of one mile an hour, 
and the frequent irregularities of, the surface make 
them sidle into the bush, where tree stubs abound, and 
where falls are imminent. The path was tortuouSj 
but easy to a walker, and hardly anywhere impassable 
to an American light waggon. The sixth King Sinmen- 
kpen (our Adahoonzou 11., 1774 — 1789) was the 
Macadam of Dahome. Resolving to make the " Ko " 
passable to his strangers, he handed over a string, ten 
yards long, to each caboceer, — a significant hint. This 
passage, we are told, cost incredible labour and fatigue 
before the hurdle bridges over the swamps were 
widened and the gullies were filled up. There were 
two depressions of black mud, decayed vegetation, and 
beyond those points the surface, though caked and 
cracked, was of lighter hue ; its general unevenness 
told its difficulty during the rains. The only fetor in 



PEOM ALLADA TO AGEIME. 175 

the bush was that of the large black ant, -which suggests 
that a corpse is hidden behind every tree.* 

The road was crowded with porters, hastening up to 
the Customs. After every 100 or 200 yards were 
dwarf thatches containing travellers' bedsteads, rough 
branches laid on cross-bars supported by forked 
uprights, and all in ruinous state. These were the 
remnants of huts used by the soldiery when firing to 
Whydah.f At the half-way house, "Wondonun,J we 
found by the aneroid that we had descended from 417 
to within 134 feet of sea-level, explaining the Swamp's 
stagnancy. The little village is in a kind of island, 
which never floods ; it has, however, a temporary and 
a miserable look. Around it is a wild and wiry grass 
showing old husbandry, and iextensive plantations of 
plantain. 

We ranged our chairs under an open shed in the 
market-place of Wondonun, and were not excused the 
usual infliction. The single white umbrella there 

* The experiments made by Mr. Duncan tend to show that the smell 
emitted by this species of ant is a poison to other insects. 

t See, for a description of this ceremony, Chap. XXII. 

X Interpreted to mean a place where some monstrous prodigy was pro- 
duced from won (" portent " or " bad thing," as, for instance, a child born 
with teeth, or speaking prematurely) and Bo-nun (s.s. as do kho, i.e., 
speak palaver). 



176 A MISSION TO GELELE. 

present mustei-ed his corps de ballet with two separate 
rings of different sexes. And we had the poHteness to 
look on for half-an-hour. 

Whilst the sun was still young, we left Wondonun, 
and struck once more into the bush ; the ground, 
though hard and flakey, was level, and presently tall 
black ant-hills showed that we had reached the 
northern edge of the swamp, where water does not 
regularly extend. A long hour placed us at Aiveji,* 
where drink and another dance awaited us. The soil 
from black mud had become white sand, and presently 
it assumed the normal red tinge. The surface was 
grass, burned in places : high and lush, it showed that 
the land had long lain fallow ; the later cultivation was 
denoted by finer and thinner wild growths. Aiveji is 
a little village of thatch, almost buried in dense 
verdure, and near the road was a scatter of tattered 
hovels, the " khambi" or grass camp of the East African 
interior. 

Excusing ourselves from halting in the heat of the 
sun, we passed on to Agrime, the end of this stage. 
The level differs little from that of Wondonun : we are 

* 'Ai' (ground), V6 (red thing), and Ji (on) : it is so called because 
built on red soil. 



FEOM ALLADA TO AGEIME. 177 

still but 232 feet above the sea. Here, however, we 
strike the " true Coast " of Africa ; the alternate dunes 
and morasses disappear for a regular and northerly 
inclination, whilst pebbles are now mixed with grass, 
shells, and broken palm-nuts, to temper the house- 
swish. The stones, all rounded and water- washed, 
contained a large proportion of iron, and a smaller 
quantity of copper. Some Europeans declare that 
they have found traces of gold,* especially in the 
pottery : I saw nothing but an abundance of mica.f 
Others have gone so far as to say that the King, like 
his father, is aware of the precious metal existing in 
that portion of the " Kong Mountains " which subtends 
the north of Dahome, and that this is his reason for 

* Barbot, Book IV. Chap. I., speaks of the " country of Tafou, in 
which are said to be mines of gold ; " but he clearly did not know its 
whereabouts. According to Mr. Duncan (Vol. II. p. 307), gold is as 
plentiful in Dahome as in Ashanti ; but it is quite superseded by the 
slave-trade. No one believes him. 

It is not a little curious that these people, like the Mandengas, the 
Fanti of the Gold Coast, and the natives of the Gaboon River, call gold 
" Sika." Mr. E. Bruce Walker, now of Lagos, informs me that, " At E. 
rrisco, near C. Lahou, which is the most westerly point on the "West 
African coast, when gold is found, the people call it Asika." All these 
dialects being totally different, the word must have been borrowed by 
one tribe from the other, suggesting that all do not produce the metal. 
Can it be connected with the Asiatic " Sikkeh ? " 

t The pottery made at Agbome glitters with mica, and these "pail- 
lettes " have probably imposed upon the credulous. 



178 A MISSION TO GELELE. 

barring the road to travellers.* Others more reason- 
ably opine that such a secret could not possibly be 
kept, especially when so many Gold Coast men are in 
the country ; and, moreover, that the Dahomans are 
not such fools as to leave gold undug. 

Agrimen — " In the wall " — derives its name from an 
old legend. When Jemeken was the chief, it was 
predicted to him that his wall must shake unless he 
daily " ate " {i.e., exacted as a tax upon goods passing 
the place) a "kene"and a " tene" (160 and 9) of cow- 
ries. When the King is in country quarters at Kana, 
strangers halt here, send forward their message-canes, 
and request permission to advance. We were received 
with the usual ceremony, a single soldier being the 
performer in a circle of some twenty unarmed squatters. 
Presently a messenger informed us that we were not 
wanted till the morrow. We spread the table under a 
thick orange-tree, and strewed it with wild mangoes, 

* According to the apocryphal M. Wallon, King Gezo used to say 
that the mountains north of his kingdom produced gold, but that he 
preferred the cowrie currency, as with it there could be no forgery; 
moreover, no man could be secretly rich. At present, when doubloons 
are paid for slaves, the monarch monopolises aU. the gold in the country. 
The last haul of doubloons was made by H. M. S. Prometheus, who 
found 8000/. stowed away in soap bars. Since that time, specie is 

brought out in the mail steamers, and bills are drawn on Messrs. L i 

and Co., L'pool. 



FEOM ALLADA TO AGEIME. 179 

smelUng like apples, and "with cocoas, -whicli extend 
as far as Agbome ; the pineapple here, as at the 
capital, was found in a savage state, and without 
fruit. Our beds were hung in a new mud-house, 
lately built inside the royal precincts for the use 
of white travellers. The place is one of dignity ; 
we were soon informed that it is not " etiquette " 
to follow any walk where we could be sighted by 
" King's wives." A large cynocephalus, a ground- 
pig, and divers interesting muscicapse were to be 
seen in the maize, but could not be shot, being in the 
King's palace. These ridiculous pretensions are doubt- 
less invented by petty captains 'pour se faire valoir. 
Unfortunately white visitors, from Frenchmen to Bra- 
zihans, have ever endured this bullying without a 
murmur, and now the stain is hardly delible from the 
black mind.* 

This chapter may conclude with a few remarks 
touching the route travelled over. 

The aspect of the country confirms the general 
impression that the Dahomans were, for negroes, an 
industrious race, till demoraUsed by slave hunts and by 

* The catoceer of Allada objected to Mr. Duncan measuring a 
cotton tree without the King's leave. 

N 2 



180 A MISSION TO GELELE. 

long predatory wars. The land has at no distant 
period been -well cleared, and it is still easy to reclaim, 
though in time the fallows will be again afforested. 
Others opine that it has of late been the royal policy 
to gird the capital with a desert, as the surest defence 
against invaders. 

However that may be, Africa, as far as I know her, 
shows few such ruined regions as that viewed during 
the last four days. The scantiness of the population, 
and the disproportion of women and children to adult 
males, strike every eye. The hackneyed excuse is that 
there is a general muster for war or ceremony at the 
capital : the fact is that, beyond a few towns in which 
there is centralization, the country is a luxuriant 
wilderness. 

On the Gold Coast, and about the Gaboon River and 
the South Coast, even a peasant will have his chair, 
table, cot, and perhaps boxes for goods. Here he 
never dreams of such ownership. The cause is, of 
course, the ruler, who by spiritual advice acts upon the 
principle that iron-handed tyranny is necessary to 
curb his unruly subjects, and to spare him the painful 
necessity of inflicting upon them death or the " middle 
passage " — the Hamitic form of transportation. More 



PEOM ALLADA TO AGEIME. 181 

to make them feel his power than to ameliorate their 
condition, he -will not allow them to cultivate around 
Whydah coffee and sugar-cane, rice and tobacco, which 
at times have been planted and have been found to 
succeed.* Similarly King Gezo stringently prohibited 
the growth of ground-nuts, except for purely domestic 
purposes. A caboceer may not alter his house, wear 
European shoes,i- employ a spittoon-holder, carry an 
umbrella without leave, spread over his bed a counter- 
pane, which comfort is confined to princes, mount a 
hammock, or use a chair in his own home ; and if he 
sits at meat with a white, he must not touch knife or 
fork.J Only a " man of puncto " may whitewash the 
interior of his house at Agbome, and the vulgar muse 
refrain from this, as well as from the sister-luxury of 

plank or board doors. And so in everything. 
* * a » 

It was a lovely evening at Agrime, ushering in a 
cool clear night ; the atmosphere told us that we had 

* Mr. James, thinking the tea-plant indigenous to Dahome, endea- 
voured to cultiyate it, and of course failed. 

t The only shoes permitted are the kind of leather bags called, Im4- 
len fo-kp^ or Moslem slippers, and these cannot be assumed without 
royal permission, 

X Formerly caboceers were not allowed to drink out of a glass in the 
royal presence; now the King will even ofi'er it. 



182 A MISSION TO GELELE. 

changed the false for the true tropical Africa, — the 
swampy outskirt for the hard hem of the rich garment. 
The moon shone brightly, exciting the hyaena, and 
inducing from the frogs many a /3peK€KeKef, Koa$, noa^. 
Unusually distinct was that dark mysterious oval which 
sailoring men call the "coalsack," and our "jungle 
clock," of which Dante sang, — 

" lo mi volsi a man destra e posi mente 
Al altro polo, e yidi quattro steUe 
Kon ciiste mai fuorch' alia prima geute." 

It may savour of heresy to say so, but I confess 
never to have discovered the charms of this useful 
but homely constellation. When the major axis of the 
Southern Cross is perpendicular, the form resembles 
that of a boy's lob-sided kite ; horizontal, it is like 
a badly-made four-legged stool. 



CHAPTER VII. 

SMALL RECEPTION AT AGKIME, AND ARRIVAL AT KANA, 
THE king's country QUARTERS. 

On Friday, the 18th, about mid-aflernoon, we were 
warned that the royal messenger or escort was 
approaching. A table was forthwith disposed outside 
the palace, opposite some elephant skulls and bones * 
heaped up under an ayyan, or thunder fetish shrub ; 
and we ranged ourselves behind the board. After a 
few minutes a loudening hum of voices heralded a rush 
of warriors into the Uhon-nukon, or cleared space, with 
its central tree, fronting the royal abode. Dahomans 
much affect these sudden and impetuous movements, 
which impose upon the eye, making the few appear 
many. The flag-bearer was the first, waving, at the 

* The animal, in 1803, was common throughout the country ; now it 
is a " curio," having been well-nigh killed out. About three months 
before our arrival at Whydah, Mr. Dawson had bought a pair of tusks, 
and spoke of the occurrence as rare. 



184 A MISSION TO GELELE. 

end of the thinnest of staves, a long calico rag with a 
preposterous blue anchor. Then, habited in the war 
uniform of the " Blue Company," dashed a tumultuous 
column of war-men, four deep and about eighty in 
number ; followed by two neat kettle-drums, and all 
singing the loudest chants. They saluted us by cir- 
cumambulating the central tree, defiling before us 
from the left with right shoulders forward, jumping, 
springing, pretending to fire their weapons, and imi- 
tating all the action of an attack. 

During this wild " pass round," sundry calabashes of 
food, carried on slaves' heads, appeared from our left, 
and were displayed in order before us. Meanwhile, 
behind the soldiery, in distinct procession, walked the 
civilians, seven married men preceded by a white calico- 
covered object which, conspicuously borne aloft on a 
carrier's head, announced itself as an old friend, the 
venerable liqueur-case of former days. Its damaged front 
and broken legs would disgrace an English pot-house ; 
but it has been the pride and ornament of the Dahoman 
Court for the last half century. Behind it, with much 
solemnity, marched Aiseku, a medicine boy of the 
Men, or Second Minister ; and after him, habited in a 
shabby paletot of brown-black alpaca, tomahawk in 



AEEIVAL AT KANA. 185 

hand, stalked, with even greater dignity, Sosu Bleo, 
poUtely called Podoji-noto — less courteously, "state- 
spy" upon the old Buko-no. 

The Blues, after grovelling in the dust before the 
Sublime Porte, cried out the royal " strong names," * 
presented arms to it after their fashion, and formed up 
in line before our table. Then the king's canes were, 
according to custom, produced from their etuis, and all 
admired their novelty. Instead of King Gezo's rococo 
old lions, sharks, and crocodiles, we now found out, after 
some study, chameleons, parrots, and monkeys half- 
swallowed by snakes, the whole ornamented with thin 
plates of beaten doUars.f I handled them standing and 
bare-headed, whilst the messengers prostrated ; and in 
this position the usual questions, answers, and greetings 
were exchanged. 

The old liqueur-case was uncovered, and, besides the 
invariable aqua pura, three case-bottles made their 
appearance, with muscadel wine, trade gin, and bad 



* This old Africo-English term is a literal translation of the Ffon 
" nyi siyen-siyen." 

t The wood is light, canaiy-coloured, and pretty much like what I 
have seen at Fernando Po. The stick-making industry seems here to 
pay : the cheapest specimens cost half a dollar. Before an axe edge of 
iron or silver can he added, the King's permission must be obtained. 



186 A MISSION TO GELELE. 

Portuguese rum. The Dahoman etiquette is to drink 
thrice of different liquors : foreseeing much of this kind 
of thing, I resolved at once to show preference to the 
muscadel, and, despite all protestations, to decline 
the rum. 

Whilst we imbibed to the King's health and to 
my own, the escort fired salutes ; they then grounded 
arms, and began the usual "Grillie Galium," their 
" decapitation dance." Amongst the knives and toma- 
hawks I remarked a jambiyah, or Arab side-dagger. The 
line moved from side to side, capering and raising the 
near leg, and at times all rushed like madmen round 
the tree. Ensued solos of three chiefs, and the usual 
frantic singing and valour-boasting. After empty- 
ing the gin and rum into the principals, civil and 
military, I retired. The small reception ended with 
the King's dole of provaunt — ^five calabashes of stews 
and vegetables, with one pot of good water. It 
sufficed for fifty, whereas we had a hundred mouths 
to fill ; ensued the usual scene of disgusting selfish- 
ness, the missionary youths, with "Elijah" at their 
head, greatly distinguishing themselves. 

Nothing could be meaner than the whole display, 
which every year grows worse ; Gezo attempted to 



AEEIVAL AT EjLNA. 187 

keep up state ; his son is either unable or unwilling to 
do so. 

When all was over we set out in hammocks, preceded 
by the guard firing at spurts carbines and muskets loud 
as little mortars, and capering all the way. I have 
heard an Englishman doubt the possibility of " polking " 
from Dan to Beersheba — let him visit Dahome. A 
delicate French grey, touched with the lightest pink in 
the western sky, told us that the day was dying fast. 
The soil, before whitish, again appeared deeply tinged 
with oxide of iron, and the vegetation displayed 
cactus, as well as the acacia which had characterised 
the scenery between Agrime and its swamp. In 
places it perfumed the atmosphere like that of the 
Ezbekiyah Gardens at Cairo, where the native per- 
fumers extract from the " locust " a faint and peculiarly 
oriental perfume appropriately called Fitneh. The land, 
semingly a dead level, had everywhere been burned, and 
the lively young grass was sprouting out of death. 
After about an hour we halted at a Danh-hwe, or 
" Rainbow house,"* a little wall-less thatch-slope, like the 



* For an account of the rainbow worship, see Chap. 5VII. Danb, as 
has been seen, also means a snake; but the seaboard god has few 
honours heie. 



188 A MISSION TO GELELE. 

Australian " breakwind," in the centre of a dwarf mud 
wall, circled with the thunder fetish plant. The head 
" rehgious " attached to the estabUshment came forth 
with the usual ceremonies, presented water to us, 
begged and received alms. 

The next halt was at Zogbodomen, so called from 
its chief, who was slain by Dako,* the first Dahoman 
king. The few miserable thatch huts are shaded 
by the fleshy-leaved figs, called on the Gold Coast 
"Market trees," and are almost buried during the 
rains by densest grass, from which rise the stateliest 
palmyras. Presently crossing level ground, with vege- 
tation here tall, there dwarfed ; now green, then brown ; 
we sighted from afar a deep depression stretching 
from east to west. 

On the farther side of this valley, which during wet 
weather must roll in a considerable stream, stands 
Kana. I could not but feel, during my former visit, a 
thrill of pleasure at the first sight of the "country 
capital." It is distinctly Dahome ; and here the traveller 
expects to look upon the scenes of barbaric splendour 



* Zogbodo also means a woman's top-knot of hair, the Shusheh of the 
Arabs. Mr. Duncan (vol, i. p. 205) writes Togbado ; not a misprint, but 
probably an error of his notes. 



AEEIVAL AT KANA. 189 

of which all the world has read. And it has its own 
beauty : a French traveller has compared it with the 
loveliest villages of fair Provence ; while to Mr. Duncan 
it suggested " a vast pleasure-ground, not unHke some 
part of the Great Park at Windsor." After impervious 
but sombre forest, grass - barrens, and the dismal 
swamps of the path, the eye revels in these open 
plateaux : their seducing aspect is enhanced by scat- 
tered plantations of a leek green studding the slopes, 
by a background of gigantic forest dwarfing the 
nearer palm files, by homesteads buried in cultivation, 
and by calabashes and cotton-trees vast as the view, 
tempering the fiery summer sun to their subject 
growths, and in winter collecting the rains, which 
would otherwise bare the newly buried seed. Nor is 
animal life wanting. The turkey-buzzard, the kite, and 
the kestrel soar in the upper heights ; the brightest 
fly-catchers flit through the lower strata ; the little grey 
squirrel nimbly climbs his lofty home, and a fine large 
spur-fowl cries from the plantations of maize and cassava. 
After two hours of slow travelling we passed the site 
of a village now level with the ground : it is called 
Logozokpota,* or the Tortoise's Rise. Here is a de- 

* An iron figure of the Logozo, the land tortoise, or terrapin, is much 



190 A MISSION TO GELBLE. 

tached thatch which the king visits before beginning his 
compaigns ; and when passing it we were saluted with 
five muskets — an honour always punctually reported. 
Descending into the depression, we could see the town 
— a city no longer — straggling beyond the northern 
bank. A nearer glance at the habitations showed us 
that they are those of Whydah and Savi, heaps of 
haycock huts or penthouse thatches enclosed in " com- 
pounds" of mud wall or palm-leaf, and jealously 
detatched. There is palpably more field than habita- 
tion, and far more fallow than field. 

At this point we reached a trivia. Two paths 
setting to the N.N.W. lead to the town ; the south- 
eastern is in the direction of the king's drinking water, 
called Hanan. I afterwards visited it. A well-cleared 
road leads over several waves of ground, alternately 
maize-field and palm-orchard, towards a serpentine line 
of tall dark trees — a formation ever denoting water in 
those lands. About half a mile from the outskirts of 
Kana places the visitor at the rivulet ; it is a deep 
ditch, sunk canal-like 10 to 12 feet below the ground- 



used in the Bo-Fetish. The Egbas believe mirage to be caused by an 
underground fire with which the tortoise fells the trees. I could not 
find the idea in Dahome. 



AEEIVAL AT KANA. 191 

surface ; the bed is black with vegetable humus, 
and the water after being puddled is white with clay. 
The direction is easterly towards the Denham Lake. 

This streamlet is said to supply during the dry 
season all Kana. It is visited throughout the night by 
the humbler classes. At the earliest dawn the women 
slaves of the palace,* who are shut up during the hours 
of darkness, wend their way in long lines, carrying 
huge pots on their heads. They claim the road, 
which is consequently provided with a number of foot- 
made offsets. At the words, "Gan ja!"t— "The bell 
comes !" — even if it is tinkled by a slave girl-child four 
years old, the native must throw himself "into the 
bush," that is to say, out of the road, and await with 



* They are not Amazons, as Commodore Wilmot (Appendix iii.) 
thinks, but the slaves of the fighting women, who each hold from 
one to fifty. When any of the king's wives appear they are preceded 
by such attendants, and are accompanied by Amazons, who, however, 
carry only their muskets. It is the same with the royal Fetish women 
when going to fetch water for the great Nesu ; they are known by their 
white raiment and long strings of cowries. On these occasions the 
male lieges must run off afar and turn their backs. Women only clear 
the way. 

t Gan is any metal ; gan-wi (lit., black metal) specifies iron. The 
bell in question is a rude unbrazed affair not unlike that appropriated 
to' our sheep, and it is carried suspended to a cord round the neck of 
the file leader. At the sight of a man it is vigorously shaken up and 
down with one hand. 



192 A MISSION TO GELELE. 

averted face till the long train has passed. If a 
palace water-pot be broken, the nearest male would 
be accused and get into trouble.* "When out shooting 
in the morning, we were often called to by these slaves, 
telling us not to startle them. The Dahoman officials 
show their loyalty by " clearing out" as far and as fast as 
possible. If a stranger does only what is strictly neces- 
sary, one woman will say, " He is a white, and knows no 
better !" and the other will reply, " And has he no law 
in his own land V The lower, the older, and the uglier 
the slave girls are, the louder and longer they tinkle — 
which is natural — and almost all of them seemed to 
enjoy the ignoble scamper of our interpreters and ham- 
mock men, whom the old women order to look the 
other way. At times, men and boy water-carriers for 
the palace, known by their switches, arrogate to them- 
selves the same right. This is one of the greatest 
nuisances in Dahome : it continues throughout the 
day ; in some parts, as around the palace, half a mile 



. * The same is the custom amongst the Demhos of the old Congo 
empire. A man who refused to quit the path when a chief's wife 
approached, or who stood talking with her, would be sold with his family 
into slavery : on the other hand, the woman, under pain of her 
lord's displeasure, yielded the way to a white man or a black-white— one 
authorised to wear shoes and other articles of European toilette. 



AERIVAL AT KANA. 193 

an hour would be full speed; and to make way for these 
animals of burthen, bought perhaps for a few pence, is, 
to say the least of it, by no means decorous. 

Continuing our way to the N.W., the next feature 
observed was the Gau Nehori, explained to be " Fetish 
place, when the Gau or commander-in-chief opens the 
campaign" by performing certain ceremonies. It is 
nothing but a long shed with a shady verandah, and a 
few huts under a splendid Ficus. A little beyond it, 
on the left of the road, is a white clay depression in 
the grass — a pool during the rains, and in the dries a 
surface pitted with empty holes 2 feet deep — this is 
the Gau-te.* Then came the Kana-'gbo-nun,f or town 
gate, consisting of a pole or two, but warning men that 
their heads are within the lion's jaws. The space is 
open ; there are two ragged trees on the left ; to the 
right lie a few small huts, and a gigantic Bombax 
denotes from afar the entrance to Kana. 

When the party with much singing and dancing had 
"been formed up, we were once more allowed to advance. 
This time, however, the circuitous official road was pre- 

* I could not obtain a reliable translation of this name. Mr. Beeoham. 
rendered it " commander-in-oMet's pool." 

t Agbo (with the peculiar " gb " pronounced simultaneously, a gate), 
and nun (mouth, or side). 

VOL. I, o 



194 A MISSION TO GELELB. 

ferred. The large open spaces were crowded -with 
spectators^ whom, the bright moonlight enabled to 
satisfy their curiosity. On our left lay the blacksmiths' 
quarter, dotted with round thatched huts, open at the 
sides, and presenting all the appearance of the Cen- 
tral African smithy. Another half hour being duly 
wasted, we turned to the S.W., passed a couple of 
dwarf temples, when the impudique Logba looked more 
priapus-like than any priapus, and were carried into 
the " English house," whence the crippled old landlord 
Degen-no''^ came out to receive us. 

This was a disappointment: although ex-officio guests 
of Buko-no, the English landlord, we had looked for- 
ward to the comfortable hall and superior establishment 
of the Akho-vi,t or Prince Chyudaton, the Lieutenant- 
Governor of Whydah. Of course we remonstrated 
loudly about the narrowness of our quarters, and we 
sent a message to the head doctor, without other result 
than the usual "put off." Let no reader of African 
travel, however, suppose that anything so noble as 

* A name always given to children that have been sent from Dead- 
land by their great-grandmothers. 

i" Atho, or Akhosu (a king), and Vi (a child, son, or young one). So 
" Tom " was known amongst the people as Tewe-no-vi (literally, god- 
mother-son), young missionary. 



AEKIVAL AT KANA. 195 

jealousy influences tliese negro -worthies. Their object 
in securing the guest is purely and simply for dirty 
pelf. I have heard and read much of African hospi- 
tality ; but I have never seen a trace of it in the true 
Hamite.* He -will take you into his hut, and will even 
quarrel ■with, you if you pass him unvisited : he will 
supply you -with food, and -wUl assure you that you are 
monarch of aU you survey. But it is all a sham : he 
expects a recompense in double and treble, and if he 
does not obtain it, his rudeness will be that of the 
savage gratte. The self-called " civihsed " negro, like 
the emancipados of S'a Leone and Fernando Po, admit 
you into their houses, and keep you there as at an inn : 
they would be equally hurt and offended by your calling 
for the bill and by your forgetting to pay exorbitantly, 
but indirectly. The fact is, they would combine the 
praise of hospitaUty with more solid advantages ; and 
they do so with the transparent cunning of children. 
Such has been my experience in Africa — may others 
have fared better ! 

Kana is less correctly written Canna, Cannah, and 

* " The people, I have said already, are void either of sympathy or 
gratitude, even in their own families ; and the poor horse is not held in 
half so much esteem as the swine, heeause they cannot eat it," This is 
a true remark by Mr. Duncan, 

2 



196 A MISSION TO GELELE. 

even Carnah : the old travellers prefer Calmina, or 
Canamina, a corruption of Kana-mina, from a palace 
once built there, according to "country custom," by 
one of the Dahoman kings.* The History declares it 
to have been the first place of importance which (about 
1620) fell into the hands of the Foys (Ffons), or 
early Dahomans, by the assassination of its chief. That 
authority, however, uses the word " Calmina," which 
should evidently be Kana, the " Mina " being an addition 
of a later date. According to Commander Forbes, 
" Cannah, formerly capital of Foy, then called Dawee, 
conquering Agbome, has retained a peace of upwards 
of 200 years." This sentence contains a treble in- 
accuracy : " Dawee," as has been seen, should be 
" Uhwawi ;" secondly, Agbome conquered Kana ; and 
thirdly, they have hardly ever been at peace till the 
present century. 

As the History proves, Kana was a settlement 



* "Mina" must not be confounded with. Dutch Elmina, on the Gold 
Coast ; it refers to Elmina Chioa, on the Slave Coast. Locally all the 
peoples between Little Popo and Accra are called " Mina." 

When Dahoman kings fail to capture an attacked place, they erect at 
one of the capitals a palace which is dubbed after the victor, and 
this satisfies the vanquished. Hence, because Dahome was defeated by 
Ashauti, the Kumasi palace at Agbome was added to the older establish- 
ments. Mr. DuEoaa errs (vol. ii., p. 274) when stating of the latter, 



AREIVAL AT KANA. 197 

claimed of old by the independent " Oyos," or Eyeos,* 
the northern and equestrian Yombas. The Dahomans, 
since the days of Agaja (a.d. 1708 — 1730), agreed to 
pay to them an annual tribute in November, and the 
failure of this subsidy invariably brought on a war. 
When Tegbwesun (the Bossa Ahadee, of our writers), 
about 1738, refused his contribution, Kana was plun- 



" This palace was built and named about the time when the present king 
(Gezo) threw off his allegiance to the kingdom of Ashantee, the king of 
which formerly boasted that he could hold Dahomey in vassalage." 

* Theword "Eyeo"has greatly vexed West African writers before the 
days of Clapperton and Lander. D'Anville uses Gogo ; Kennell, Gugoo ; 
Adams (1823) writes it " Hio." The " History of Dahomey" (1793) 
gives us Yahoo (from Snelgrave) ; Oyeo and Okyou (Barbot) ; Eyeo 
(Dalzel) ; and, in conclusion, they confound it with Anago, or the Egba 
country. " Probably this may be the kingdom of Gago (Kuka, or 
Gugoo!), which lies to the northward of Dahomey eight or ten days' 
journey. The Moorish aspirated sound of g being nearly like a hard 
H, as in the word George, spelt jorje by the Spaniards, and pronounced 
Hork6, or Horch6 ; whence Gago may have been sounded Haho, Haiho, 
or Haiko." Admirable reasoning ! Mr. Norris's map places the Ayoes 
or Eyeos north of Lagos, which is not far wrong. Bosman speaks of an 
invasion of Ardra, in 1698, by a powerful inland people, which some 
oonjectore to be the "Eyeos." Oyo (pronounced Awyaw), alias 
Katanga, was the capital of Toruba Proper on the northern region, 
destroyed in 1835 by the Moslem Fulas, and still, I believe, a heap of 
ruins. When the falling structure crumbled, the maritime provinces 
asserted their independence, and have ever since preserved it. The His- 
tory gives wonderful accounts of Oyo's former power. It frequently sent 
forth 100,000 horsemen. The general, it is said, used to spread a thick 
buffalo-hide before his tent and make the soldiery pass between two 
spears till a hole had been worn in it. When greater undertakings 
were in prospect, two hides used thus to be treated. 



198 A MISSION TO GELELB. 

dered ; in 1747 tlie foe retired after being duly 
satisfied. The Oyos must hare been troublesome 
neighbours to Dahome, ever demanding increase of 
supplies, interfering in domestic policy, harassing 
them by constant wars, and assuring the Southrons 
that " Dahome belonged to Eyeo." Mr. Norris, -writ- 
ing in 1772, shows that the town was in Dahoman 
hands, but it has doubtless frequently been taken and 
retaken. 

Early in the present century, King Gezo (who came 
to the throne in 1818) seized his opportunity, and after 
hard fighting, finally drove out the warUke Oyos, who 
were sinking before the Fula or Moslem movement in 
the north,* and distributed the tribute amongst his 
people, — one of his proudest achievements. He made 
Kana a kind of villagiatura for the Court, free and easy 
as such country quarters generally are, and resided in 
it when his troops went forth to their lesser wars. The 
remnant of the Oyo population was enlisted in his 
army, and was well-nigh killed out during the attack 
upon Abeokuta in 1851. And that the subjugation 
of so terrible an enemy might not be forgotten by his 
dynasty, Gezo — not his son, as the missionaries believe, 

* See "Wanderings in West Africa," — Abeokuta, Chap. V. 



AREIVAL AT KANA. 199 

— then instituted a sacrifice at Kana, which opens as it 
-were the customs of Agbome. The victims are made 
to personate in dress and avocation Oyos, a pastoral 
and agricultural people.* ^.^'-^ 

There is little to be seen at Kana, a wall-less scatter 
of huts and houses, thickening as usual around the 
palace and the market-places,, and straggling over 
some three miles of ground. The. population may at 
usual times amount to 4000, about one-third that of 
WhydaLf According to some enthusiastic travellers, 
the cultivation rivals that of the Chinese ; at present 



* It is called Gezo's custom, and is performed at Kana, not at 
Agbome. Mr. Bernasko saw it in May, 1863 ; he describes it thus : 
"Near the second side of the (palace) wall were eleven platforms, 
erected on poles about forty feet high. On each of these was the dead 
body of a man in an erect position, clothed in the native style, each 
having in his hand a calabash or similar vessel, fiUed with oil, grain, or 
some other produce of the country. One was represented leading a sheep, 
also dead. All this was intended to illustrate that at Canna, of which 
they (the Dahomans) are now masters, they were once obliged to pay 
tribute." The Kana custom is described by Mr. Duncan, vol. i., p. 219. 
In his day the bodies had been exposed about two moons and a half, 
till the skin, from exposure, had turned nearly to the colour of that of 
a white man. " The vulture was industriously endeavouring to satisfy 
liis appetite, but the heat of the sun had dried the skin so as to make it 
impenetrable to his efforts." 

t No reliance can be placed upon native or quasi-native estimate of 
numbers, especially in towns. The traveller is reduced to the rude 
experiment of counting houses, and multiplying by what he learns to be 
the average household. 



200 A MISSION TO GELELE. 

all such art has been lost. The situation is low ; the 
air hot, humid, and unwholesome ; the sea-breeze some- 
what tempers the day, but the nights are extremely- 
oppressive, and during the rains, fevers are rife. 

About one mile to the south-westward of the English 
house is an old palace of a Dahoman king, by some 
named Agaja, by others Tegbwesun. It was in poor 
condition ; in many places the wall was tattered, in 
others patched with matting, and the interior was a 
mass of bush and jungle. As usual, however, the 
entrances were kept in repair, and the ground before 
them was swept and sprinkled every morning by 
slaves established for that purpose. There is a tra- 
dition that the founder of this decayed palace hes 
here buried : if so, the remains have been removed 
to the great Agbome palace, where there is a single 
" family vault." 



CHAPTER VIII. 

THE PROCESSION. 

On Saturday, December 19th — Ember Day, it will 
be remembered — we prepared for the penance of recep- 
tion. An early visit was paid by the King's chief phy- 
sician and archi-magus, Buko-no Uro ; a thin, dark, and 
somewhat castey-looking senior. He was close shaven, 
to hide the frostiness of his wool; simply clad in white 
shorts, and in a large silk cloth with none but the ordi- 
nary silver ornaments. He looked somewhat leaner than 
before, probably the result of his latest nuptials with 
one of the King's stalwart daughters. This person- 
age came of course solely to renew old ties, to apologise 
for not having built a proper house, and to inquire 
about every one's health, from the most Exalted of the 
Empire to my humble self. The real errand at once 
peeped out : Harpagon* wanted a list of presents, and 

* There is this kind of man at every negro court. The " Narrative of 



202 A MISSION TO GBLELE. 

was especially curious to know whether various items 
■specified to Commodore Wilmot, chiefly a carriage and 
pair, were en route. After reading out to him the 
•official document touching these matters, he allowed for 
a time the subject to lie, resolved to stir it up again at 
the earliest opportunity. By way of showing friend- 
ship he announced that our reception would take place 
to-day, and that on the morrow we should proceed to 
Agbotae : he also declared in an off-hand manner that, 
•even before presentation at the palace^ we might walk 
about when and where we pleased. Kanaj I havesaidj 
is country quarters;- the sort of state imprisonment 
with which visitors are honoured at Agbome, is not the 
rule here. He therefore graciously granted us no favour, 
but our right, with which he departed, telling us tweat 
and dress at once, as the King was preparing- for our 
reception. 

I knew well from experience that these ceremonies 
never take place, except in some emergency, before the 
afternoon. Moreover, it is the first wish of every 
Dahoman official to hurry " his strangers " as much as 
possible for two reasons. The minor is^ that by making 

the Portuguese Expedition of 1798-99 " exactly describes Buko-no-TJro 
in the person of " Fumo Anoeva," at the Court of the Muata Cazemhe. 



THE PROCESSION. 203 

■white men, especially in uniform, sit for a few hours in 
the open air fronting a mud wall, called a palace,, 
he enhances the opinion of his power amongst, the 
people. The major is, his desire to make favour with 
the King, who when issuing from the interior wishes to 
be received by the visitors, and looks crookedly at the 
" minister " if they be not present. Something must 
be added on the score of African brain-looseness : these 
people have as little idea of time as of numbers.* The 
stranger, however, must be prepared to do battle with, 
this nuisance from the beginning, and the struggle will 
endure unto the bitter end, when dismissal brings 
matters to a crisis. I ended by proposing that for the 
future a messenger should be sent direct by the King, 
not by the landlord as at present, to inform visitors that 
the hour of attendance was at hand. But, even should 
this be granted, the messenger will have, to some extent, 
the same inducements as has the landlord in discom- 
forting visitors. 

Under the then circumstances, So-kun, our guide, 
began, about 10 a.m:., the systematic African worry- 

* When Commodore Wilmot was at Agbome he gave silver watches 
to many of the chiefs. The main-springs were all broken at the first 
opportunity, but they did not the less " sport" these ornaments on all 
public occasions. 



204 A MISSION TO GELELE. 

ing :* it was, however, of no avail, and we put off the evil 
time till 1 p.m., which proved to be only one hour too 
soon. The business of the day was to begin with the pro- 
cession of Caboceers, a ceremony as old as the time of 
Mr. Norris, who has left a notice of it. Followed by new 
and handsome hammocks, we were conducted to the 
Grbwe-hun-'h,f a clear space partially shaded with ragged 
trees: it is about 100 paces N.N.E. of the " English 
House," and for many generations it has been the seat 
of these operations. Then ranging our sticks facing 
northwards, we formed the focus of stare and gaze, the 
smaller rabble being as usual conspicuous. Two Klan, 
or Ai-hun-da-to,:j: jesters, came up, and in hopes of dole 
did their best to amuse us. These African " Sutari " 
are like the guiriots or buffoons, those Senegal profes- 
sionals, who mingle in every crowd, and whose sole 
object in life is to make men laugh. Ever racking their 
wits to please, they evince the true negro poverty of 
invention : there is a lack of variety in their tricks 

* The African keeps you waiting with an exemplary calme ; if you 
keep him waiting he shows all the restiveness of a wild animal. This 
is generally the case with barbarians ; I have remarked it in the South 
of Europe. 

t Meaning bush (gbwe), cotton-tree (hun), road ('li, for ali). 

X Klan is a jester, a clown ; ti (heart), hun (drum), SA, (play), to 
(father). 



THE PEOCESSION. 205 

whicli soon renders them lively as a professionally 
engaged mourner or a Turkish mute. Some of them 
take to the trade early in life, they are in fact born and 
hereditary buffoons. They are remarkable for their 
ugliness, to which they add by white-washing face, arms, 
and legs. The staple of their entertainment consists in 
" making faces,'' as children say, wrinkling foreheads ; 
protruding tongues, and clapping jaws Hke apes ; in a 
little rude tumbling,* in ugly dancing and agitating the 
clunes, in drawing in the belly to show emptiness, in 
smoking a bone or bit of cassava by way of pipe, in 
producing from huge bags f yams and maize paste, of 
which they bolted mouthfuls, or by pretending to be 
deaf and dumb — a favourite trick here. They offered 
us some provisions, and we had the laugh against them 
by accepting and passing them on to our servants ; 
and they imitated my notes by scratching a sweet 
potato with a stick. I need not add that they are bull 
beggars all. 

* The "cartwheel" is here called "alogwe"; by the Egbaa, "okiti." 
t These wallets are of three kinds: the single bag of skin, called 

" glo ; " the large double pouch of the same material, known as " akpa- 

taklo ; " and the cloth sack named " vlte." 

The History tells us that jesters used to amuse Agaja the Conqueror, 

by swallowing tubs full of frumenty, and that these men generally 

stuffed themselves to death in a few years. 



206 A MISSION TO GELELE. 

Shortly after we had taken our seats appeared, borne 
aloft on a negro's head, a table which was fated to be 
one of our best friends in Dahome. It was a vener- 
able article, once intended for cards, but the Tiolent 
hands of the negraille had long ago denuded it of green 
baize, had stripped off its veneer, and had reduced its 
single leg to a singularly smashed and shaky state. A 
glance at it never failed to elicit a request for a new 
" tavo," and a reminder that the Commodore had pro- 
mised a remflagant. After two or three had puzzled 
their brains for a quarter of an hour with the intricate 
problem of opening it, another would produce from a 
cahco-covered calabash sundry case and other bottles 
of gin and similar spirits, sometimes wine, and always 
tolerably pure water, from the palace. These elements 
of endurance were supplied to us with a praiseworthy 
regularity : hardly did we take our seats on any occasion 
when lo ! the table. The King seemed to be pleased 
by our appreciating the contents of his cellar : he 
frequently sent us messages bidding us not to spare 
them, and, though the Landlord frowned, I took especial 
care to make our followers invariably empty whatever 
was set before us. As a rule, the whites, even the French, 
and the mulattos engaged in the comercio, are so over- 



THE PEOOESSION. 207 

awed by the presence of one " whose smile is life and 
whose frown is death," that they would never venture 
upon such a Uberty, consequently the King thinks that 
they fear him. 

Presently a hum of voices from;the north answered 
the_ first of , the salutes. Under two tent umbrellas, one 
virgin white and the other figured,* and accompanied 
by two courtiers, walked the bearer of the royal cane,. 
Bosu Sau.t He is a half-brother to the king ; dark, not 
ilUooking, but showing no resemblance to the ruler. 
Followed . by his band, drums and rattles, and by his. 
armed escort, he advanced,: snapped fingers with us, and 
presented the stick. "We .drank with Jiim three toasts,. 

* In this land the umbrella is a rude kind of curiologics, faintly- 
resembling European blazonry, and an armorist could tell the troops, 
from the flag. In symbolism they precede Mexican 'writing. The 
newly-made Caboceer is presented with a Tirgin-white article of palace 
manufacture, and he is expected to illustrate it by his actions. The 
principal figures are knives and decapitated heads and faces, cut out of 
cloth and sewn on the alternate lappets of the valance. The knives are 
straight, and shaped like a butcher's, the handle blue, the blade red. 
The face is ruddy, with white eyes ; and the head, which is clean cut off 
at the neck, wears an azure cap shaped like the East Indian ear-cloth. 

t The king's eldest brother, Godo, is never seen in public. A tall, 
dark, and unprepossessing man, and a notable drunkard, he was set 
aside by his father, who, after the affair at Abeokuta, nominated his 
second son, Gelele, as the most likely of the family. In any Asiatic 
country such a senior brother would certainly be put to death, a,nd in 
many the younger brothers would be either blinded or be rendered 
imbecile by medicines. So far Dahome is mild in her manners. 



206 A MISSION TO GELELE. 

Shortly after we had taken our seats appeared, borne 
aloft on a negro's head, a table which was fated to be 
one of our best friends in Dahome. It was a vener- 
able article, once intended for cards, but the violent 
hands of the negraille had long ago denuded it of green 
baize, had stripped off its veneer, and had reduced its 
single leg to a singularly smashed and shaky state. A 
glance at it never failed to eUcit a request for a new 
"tavo," and a reminder that the Commodore had pro- 
mised a rempla^ant. After two or three had puzzled 
their brains for a quarter of an hour with the intricate 
problem of opening it, another would produce from a 
calico-covered calabash sundry case and other bottles 
of gin and similar spirits, sometimes wine, and always 
tolerably pure water, from the palace. These elements 
of endurance were supplied to us with a praiseworthy 
regularity : hardly did we take our seats on any occasion 
when lo ! the table. The King seemed to be pleased 
by our appreciating the contents of his cellar : he 
frequently sent us messages bidding us not to spare 
them, and, though the Landlord frowned, I took especial 
care to make our followers invariably empty whatever 
was set before us. As a rule, the whites, even the French, 
and the mulattos engaged in the comercio, are so over- 



THE PfiOOESSION. 207 

awed by the presence of one " whose smile is life and 
■whose frown is death," that they would never venture 
upon such a hberty, consequently the King thinks that 
they. fear him. 

Presently a hum of voices from -the north answered 
the.first.of ,the salutes. Under two tent umbrellas, one 
virgin white and the other figured,* and accompanied 
by two comtiers, walked the bearer of the royal cane,. 
Bosu Sau.t He is a half-brother to the king; dark, not 
ilWooking, but showing no resemblance to the ruler. 
Followed by his band, drums and rattles, and by his. 
armed escort, he advanced,, snapped fingers with us, and 
pres.ented the stick. We drank with him. three toasts,. 

* In. this land the umbrella is a rude kind of curiologiea, faintly 
resembling European blazonry, and an armorist could tell the troopa 
from the flag. In symbolism they precede Mexican writing. The 
newly-made Caboceer is presented with a Tirgin-white article of palace 
manufacture, and he is expected to illustrate it by his actions. The 
principal figures are knives and decapitated heads and faces, cut out of 
cloth and sewn on the alternate lappets of the valance. The knives are 
straight, and shaped like a butcher's, the handle blue, the blade red. 
The face is ruddy, with white eyes ; and the head, which is clean out ofi^ 
at the neck, wears an azure cap shaped like the East Indian ear-cloth. 

t The king's eldest brother, Godo, is never seen in public. A tall, 
dark, and unprepossessing man, and a notable drunkard, he was set 
aside by his father, who, after the afiair at Abeokuta, nominated his 
second son, Gelele, as the most likely of the family. In any Asiatic 
country such a senior brother would certainly be put to death, and in 
many the younger brothers would be either blinded or be rendered 
imbecile by medicines. So far Dahome is mild in her manners. 



208 A MISSION TO GELELE. 

beginning with his master's health. A salute was then 
fired, and presently Bosu Sau and his chiefs sat down 
upon their tall Gold Coast stools placed on our left, and 
thus forming part of an oval opening north, where the 
saluters presented themselves. 

Then the companies began to pass round, and first 
those of Whydah. In all these displays it is " funeral 
order," juniors first. A white umbrella, a pair of silver 
horns,* announced Nulofren, who, habited in the 
costume of the day, an armless tunic of red and yellow 
striped silk, was bestriding a little nag. After the 
latter had been led three times round us with a halter, 
and the equestrian had thrice waved hand to us as he 
passed the opening of the spectator-ring, he was lifted 
off by a pair of slaves. His fifty soldiers then formed 
line, whilst their commander advanced and bowed ; he 
then danced and fired a gun, the rest presenting arms ; 
finally, he snapped fingers, made compliments, and 
retired to the enjoj'^ment of stool and umbrella. Such 
was the programme of the. whole affair, whose resem- 
blance to European tactics suggested imitation. 

* Many are made of tin. There are two shapes : one, the thimble- 
formed, with lat«ral openings ; the other, somewhat like a smaU mush- 
room or a giraffe's horn, with ridgelets radiating from the centre of the 
domelet. 



THE PEOCESSION. 209 

Nulofren was followed by Nuage, of Whydah, another 
half-brother of the king, a tall, dark, thin man, with a 
chiefs silver armlets and thread pigtail depending down 
his dorsum. He rode past smoking a pipe. * 

The third was " the place " — meaning a confidential 
slave — of Wenu, who was unable to be present. He rode 
past, waved hands, danced, fired, and took his seat ou 
our left ; not however, like the caboceers, upon a chair. 

The fourth was the Prince Chyudaton, a caboceer of 
mote and influence, one of the king's many cousins, 
supposed to possess the ear of royalty, and lately ap- 
pointed second Yevogan of Whydah. He is a young 
man, tall and well made, of coaly complexion, broad- 
faced, and with a prepossessing espression. The Eng- 
lish subjects speak highly of him : the Prench, whose 
" landlord " he is, declare him to be cunning and inter- 
ested. He certainly knows the habits of white men, 
and it was long ago proposed that he should visit 
England, the principal advantage being that after re- 
turn he might venture upon the truth, which a meaner 
man would not dare before royalty.* When this was 



* As will appear, tlie highest officials in the land (excepting only the 
blood royal) are bona fide slaves to the king, and therefore cannot say 
what they please. 

VOL. I. p 



210 A MISSION TO GELELE. 

mentioned to the King, lie readily consented, declaring, 
liowever, that he must retain as hostages Mrs. Bernasko 
and her children. I much regretted not seeing more 
of this young man, but the jealousy of the " English 
landlord" managed successfully to isolate me. On the 
present occasion Chyudaton was smoking a bad Bahia 
cigar, — a bit of civilisation to be expected from one so 
conversant with " European society " ; he wore a tunic 
of green silk, and his decoration was a pair of mushroom 
horns. He performed the decapitation dance, looking 
most amiable the while. 

The French and Enghsh flagS; preceding a company 
of dancing soldiery, announced the Yevogan, or viceroy 
of Whydah. In contrast with his lieutenant he is the 
old school of Gezo's officials, and he is perhaps the 
worst type. He was born at the hereditary little 
village ^'' of his family, Dokon, about two miles to the, 
east of the Kana Gate of Agbome. His appearance re- 
volts : it is a compound of a bovine cerebelluray a deeply- 
wrinkled brow, villainously low, a double prognathous- 
ness, massive lips with bad Hnes, thick-lidded, blear and 
yellow eyes, and the expression of a satyr. Mr. Duncan 

* It consists of a number of thatches enclosed in a clay wall and 
surrounded by fine palm plantations. 



THE PROCESSION. '-2 11 

found him an " excellent fellow," which in one sense is 
true. He is as bad as he looks, and his avarice is only 
to be equalled by his rapacity. If two strangers dis- 
pute at Whydah, 500 dollars for instance being the sub- 
ject, and the Utigants proceed to the Yevogan for justice, 
he at once confiscates half the amount in question to 
the King, that is to say, to himself ; and a third quarter 
will certainly disappear amongst the caboceers and 
Fetishmen.* Until lately he has, like all the older 
officials, known white men only as] slaversy and as the 
most abject order of traders. He treats, every one 
with, equal supercihousness. This insolence has more 
than once brought him into trouble, and in May last 
he. was : placed, under arrest in his own house for inci- 
vility to strangers-. Yet he is ever rude of manner, 
and requires to be treated in kind: " civil or rough," as 



* The consequence is, that wMte men for the Jnost part, and black 
men when they dare, take their own measures at Whydah. Before my 
arrival a merchant shipmaster' haTing been robbed by a mulatto elerk, 
put him into the hands of a Brazilian slayer. The latter hung up the 
culprit by the thumbs and lashed his wrists tight to a pole, pouring 
upon them a powdered wood like sand, which caused the flesh to swell 
with intolerable pain. It reminded me of the days of 1724-25, when John 
■Gow, the pirate, would not plead. " The judge ordered that bis thumbs 
should be squeezed by two men with a whipcord till it did break, and 
then it should be doubled till it did again break, and then laid three- 
fold, and that the executioners should pull with their whole strength." 

p 2 



212 A MISSION TO GELELE. 

the occasion requires, but much more of the latter than 
of the former. On this occasion he wore, as a white 
man, a felt hat, which he doffed to us thrice ; then, 
dancing a few steps, he came forward to snap fingers, 
and attempted, partly in jest but much in earnest, to 
pull us from our seats. 

The caboceers were followed by the companies, 
of which the first was that of the Ahanjito or 
singers and of the Hunto or drummers ; in fact, 
the local bards, troubadours, or laureates, who are 
not less powerful in Dahome than in other wild 
lands, from Wales to Nepaul. The distinguishing 
mark was the horse-tail " chauri," with a man's 
jawbone above the handle. They were preceded 
by nine " fancy flags," * adorned with all manner of 
figures, animate and inanimate, cut out of coloured 
cloth and sewn upon the plain ground. These were 
followed by a truly barbarous display : eight human 
crania dished up on small wooden bowls like bread- 
plates, at the top of very tall poles, — a ninth remaining 

* The favourite ornament of the flag, like the umbrella, is a blue- 
handled red-bladed knife on each alternate valance-flap, the other being 
occupied by decapitated heads wearing the East Indian kan-top, or ear- 
cap, which the Egbos call " fiUa," having probably derived it from the 

Pulas. 



THE PEOCESSION. 213 

ominously ungarnished. After passing round in review 
without umbrellas, the musical warriors, who are preux 
chevaliers and extra -doughty worthies, formed line 
opposite me, and waving their " chauris," sang to a 
pretty tune certain words in my praise,* — 

Burton (pronounced Batunu), he hath seen all the world with its kings 

and caboceers : 
He now cometh to see Bahome, and he shall see everything here. 

They were dressed in rich silks, and eleven of them 
wore horns. After dancing solos they sat down on our 
right, where before stood the common herd of gazers, 
chiefly boys. 

Then, preceded by the Union Jack (why 1) and four 
flags, came the Akho-'si — " King wife," — or Eunuch 

* As these people have no written language, anything that happens 
in the kingdom, from the arrival of a stranger to an earthquake, is 
formed into a kind of song, which, rhythmless and rhymeless, is taught 
to professional men, and is thus transmitted to posterity. 

The stranger, however, may find himself strangely named. European 
nomenclature not being pleasant to negro ears and tongues, every white 
man in the land has, as on the Gold Coast, a nickname. The Father 
Superior of the French mission is known as Nyan gli — " Padre Curto," 
opposed to a tall brother, ITyan gagd, "Long father." Another mis- 
sionary, M. L , being of highly nervous temperament, was dubbed 

Penan, or papaw leaf, which resembles the aspen. Mr. Beeeham, being 
much addicted to meat, and walking about with rounded shoulders, 
became Kpon 'akra, the hunchback-vulture. I at once was known as 
Ewabna, Tuesday, from landing at Whydah on that day, and afterwards 
as " Ommoba," from a well-known Fanti character. 



214 A MISSION TO GELELE. 

Company. There were three chiefs, two in black felt 
and one in horns ; the corps, however, is no longer dis- 
tinguished, as in the days of the History, by carrying 
bright iron rods. The head man presented the royal 
stick, whereupon I rose and drank to the King's health. 
He then informed me that he had been commissioned 
by the Chief Eunuch, the principal palace dignitary, to 
guide my steps. 

The rest of the pageant was a rapid pass round of 
the corps d'SIite. My Blue, or English escort of the 
last day, with their Colonel, Anaufen, in a gap of crimson 
velvet, followed an unfurled flag, fired, and saluted. 
The Achi, or bayoneteers, were headed by their com- 
mander in a man o' war's man's cap, about twenty in 
number ; they were tall, large, and evidently picked 
men, dressed in blue cloth tunics, and armed with 
heavily loaded guns. They are recognised by a kind 
of eye on their conical caps, also of blue cloth, two hori- 
zontal parentheses of white, and a dark central dot.* 
Followed a few carbineers, whose half-shaven heads 
showed them to be slaves of the palace : they are 

* The first bayoneteers were organised by the old Men, or second 
minister, in the days of King Gezo : at first they were 200 in number. 
The reader will bear in mind that the corps d' elite and the officers in the 
Dahoman army are the same amongst the women as amongst the men. 



THE PEOCESSION. 210 

known as Zo-hu-nun — " Fire at the foe's front." A -white 
flag with a blue anchor at the end of a waving red 
stripe, denoted the Gan' u' nlan Company, the " Con- 
querors of all animals," so called from the size of their 
guns, which are expected to kill, not to wound :* forming 
part of the artillery with the Agbarya,t or blunderbuss 
men ; they are chosen for size and strength, and 
much prefer themselves to the commonalty of the 
army. They followed a tattered Jack and a fancy 
flag, and their chiefs bowed to us, whilst the men, 
resting the butt upon the ground, fired resonant 
charges. 

At 2 p.m., when the review was over, the Yevogan 
again came up, shook hands with us, and preceded by 
the most numerous of the companies, his own men, set 
o\ft palacewards, leaving us to follow. 

All our party then formed file, led by the youth 
Buko, carrying the King's cane which had reached us 
at Whydah, by So-kun, the EngHsh guide, and by the 

* Gan'u (conquering), nlan (any animal). Tlius I explain Mr. 
Duncan, vol. i., p. 236 : " Next came a regiment belonging to a country 
called Ginoa, commanded by a female of tbe same name. This regiment 
consisted only of 300 women. This corps make no prisoners, but 
kiU aU." 

t This word must not be confounded with agbaja, a cartridge-box, 
which Mr. Duncan (vol. i., p. 226) erroneously writes agbwadya. 



216 A MISSION TO GELELE. 

solemn eunuch De-Adan-de. Mr. Hilton preceded the 
hammocks with the flag of St. George, followed by 
the Reverend Bernasko, supported on both sides by 
Beecham and Valentine.* I went next with my armed 
Krumen in bright caps and " Pagnes ; " behind me was 
Mr. Cruikshank, then Governor Mark, and lastly the 
boy Tom. Between the ceremonial trees of Gbwehun-'li 
and the palace of Banyamme,f the distance is about a 
quarter of an hour in hammocks : the different inter- 
ruptions multiplied it by three ; at every 100 yards 
a 3 -pounder ship's swivel fired a blank, shot, and was 
carried on the shoulder of a single porter to the next 
station. The direction was north, with a little westing. 
A broad well-worn and carefully cleaned road — all 
those about Kana are the same — hard with water-rolled 
pebbles, wound through grass plots, scatterings of wild 
cotton heaps, and tufts of croton {Croton tiglium), be- 
tween fields of maize and " thur" (Cajanus indicus), and 



* Mr. Duncan, (vol. i., p. 216) was " amused by the vanity of the old 
governor of "Whydah,'' who showed a great anxiety to precede him, with 
a view of showing superiority, and, presently riding up, ordered to the 
rear his attendant, who seemed mortified. In Dahome the introducer 
nrecedes the presentee, but not with any idea of superiority. 
' t ^ BanyaSvamme, a strong name given by the builder, Gezo, when 
he whs substituted for his eldest brother. It is not intelligible to my 
interpreters. 



THE PROCESSION. 217 

under the noble trees detaching the divers homesteads. 
An abundance of Fetish was also present. 

Presently we struck upon the eastern angle of the 
palace. These buildings in Dahome are all made upon 
the same pattern : a swish wall of five courses or steps,* 
about 20 ft. high, forms the enceinte ; in many places 
it appears ruinous ; it shows patches of matting, and 
when new ground is taken in, a fresh palm fence 
denotes that labour is deferred to another day. The 
shape is an irregular square or broken oblong, and the 
circumference must be sufficient to contain the wives, 
soldieresses, and female slaves, composing the "personnel 
of the feminine court. The gates vary in number; they 
are usually from eight to ten. They are thatched 
sheds about 100 ft. long, built against the clay wall, 
and 60 ft. to 70 ft. high ; though the roof ridge is tall 
enough for two stories, the deep and soUd eaves rest 
upon posts barely 4 ft. tall, planted at 14 to 15 ft. 
fi-om the back wall, and the two nearest the entrance 
are provided with earth benches.f The slanting roof 

* In. Dahome these swish steps are called " ko-hwe.'' The palace and 
the city gates are allowed five ; chiefs have four tall or five short, and all 
others three, or as the Eing directs. The singbome, or double- storied 
building, 30 to 40 feet high, and described by old visitors at Kanaj'no 
longer exists, 

t Locally called "Pw6," the Abeokutan " Okpo." 



218 A MISSION TO GELELE. 

of thick grass is kept in position by stout bamboo splints. 
Inside, the ground is raised about 1 ft. ; the material is 
a stiff red loam, in parts rudely pipeclayed. Outside 
the entrance there are invariably two stunted and pol- 
larded trees, here as favourite a fashion as formerly in 
'France ; and often a pole connecting them forms a 
gallows, from which jo-susu, vo-sisa, or Fetish cala- 
bashes, and other talismans depend. Each tree also 
has its bundle of iBo-sb, or Bo-sticks,* — truncheons, 3 to 
4 ft. long, zebra'd or spotted with red and white, and 
at times inscribed with Moslem' prayers ; they resembled 
on a small scale the barber's pole of old England and 
modern America. The external gateways act as guard- 
houses : in the interior, as far as can be seen, they 
correspond with the external, and the King always 
receives in these barn-like sheds. After the fashion of 
th& old Whydah rulers, he is ever changing his sleeping 
apartment.t 



* For an explanation of the Bo Fetish, see Chap. XVII. 

t The only Englishman known to have heen admitted into the king's 
sleeping chamber was Mr. Norris, who, in 1773, described it as a neat 
detached room, separated from the court in which it stood by a 
breast-high wall, the top of which was stuck full of human jaw- 
bones. The little area within it was paved with the akuUs of neighbour- 
ing princes and chiefs, placed there that the king might trample upon 
them. 



THE PEOCESSION. 21» 

After a few minutes we arrived at the Akoreha,* or 
easiern .market, where we were received by a con- 
sistory of Bo Fetishmen ; on their right were holy 
women in decent garb, petticoated to the ancles, and 
distinguished by flowers in the hair, and long necklaces 
of cowries. The chief carried by way of sceptre a 
wonderfully worked axe of bright brass, called by the 
people Asiovi, and known to the Portuguese as Facao 
de Bo. Lustily cheered, we passed the several gates of 
the palace, eachshowing from one to three umbrellas of 
the guard, the jcaptains on chairs, and the men on the 
ground sitting motionless with guns and blunderbusses 
pointed skywards, and like a picadil of spears. Turning 
down another open space, called Ajyako, we pro- 
ceeded to the Addogwin, or western market. I did 
not recognise a place once familiar to my eyes : the 
palace fence of dry brown palm-leaves had disappeared 
for a bran-new dark-green .matting, and the form of 
thei clearing iiad .changed : nothing recalled the old 
locality but a. huge tree on the north side. 

When opposite the western or main gate, the usual 
large bam-like thatched shed, supported on posts, we 

* This is said to be a Whjdah word, the name of a town " broken " 
by one of the elder kings. 



220 A MISSION TO GELELB. 

dismounted, as is the custom, to make congees. On 
the right were two duck-guns, and a machine infernale 
with five bell-mouthed brass barrels, mounted on a 
dwarf bed,* and with a single flint lock : on the left 
were four wall-pieces, and one wooden case, which was 
probably empty. Twenty-four umbrellas, ranged in 
line, covered an equal number of the highest digni- 
taries in the empire. A somewhat lengthy description 
of this place will be required : it is the fac-simile in 
male of the feminine palace-interior, and it represents 
the soldiery of Dahome, minus the King, halted or 
encamped upon the line of march. 

The army, or, what is nearly synonymous, the nation 
of Dahome, is divided, both male and female, into two 
wings — the Eight and the Left.f They are so called 
from their relative position to the throne, which here 
was represented by the entrance dividing the captains 
and their retainers into two bodies. 

The right or senior wing is commanded, ex officio, 
by the Min-gan,^ the first of the two great Bonugan 

* Apparently a favourite old weapon. Mr. Norris mentions, in 1772, 
a " blunderbuss with five barrels." 

t There are no regiments, properly so called,as supposed by Mr. Duncan. 

X Said to mean " we are all captains." The word is variously spelt 
Miegan, Minghan, and by the History, Tamegan. The Abeokutans call 
him the " Otton." 



THE PEOCESSION. 221 

or civilian captains " of the outside." He is therefore 
the Premier of the empire amongst men ; "' the she- 
Min-gan, being within the palace, takes precedence of 
him. He leads in the field the first battahon of the 
right wing, and, as head of the pohce, he is supposed 
to speak from the people to the King. Being eosecuteur 
des hautes ceuvres, he is also entitled " Men-wu-to, or 
man-slayer; and, as he kills for the king proper, in 
the case of sacrificial or distinguished deaths he is 
expected to use his own hands, leaving the humbler 
sort to his assistants. The present " M. de Dahome " 
is a tall, dark, thin old man, by no means decrepid, 
with a neat and weU-made small cranium, but de- 
cidedly the look of a headsman. I have said all 
Dahoman officials are in double pairs : his lieutenant is 
the Adanejan (by the English called " Adonijah "), the 
" King's Cousin," and a favourite at court. The woman 
Min-gan is Gundeme,t and she has an assistant. 

* M. Walloii erroneously ranks the Mingan after the Men. He 
makes the same mistake in saying that the Gau and the Po-su are equal. 
Mr. Duncan (p. 231) casually alludes to the "Me-gah, the King's 
principal jailer," and as wrongly teUs us " the higher officers of the 
household are allowed to adopt their ofScial titles as their family names 
(K.B., there are none), Mayho (for " the Meu") being in the Dahoman 
language, Prime Minister." 

t She is thus alluded to by Mr, Duncan, vol. i. p. 248 : " The head or 
commander of one of his majesty's female regiments, named Godthimay,'' 



222 A MISSION TO GELELE. 

Under the Min-gan^ or civilian Premier, is the Gau,* 
or leader of the second battalion of the right wing, and 
military Commander-in-Chief. He is, in the. absence 
of the Min-gan, the' head of the Ahwan-gan,f or war 
captains of the outside., The present ofl&cer is a tall 
and large old man, with a wrinkled forehead, nervous 
and ricketty : it is almost time that he should' " go to 
sleep." His second in command is the: Matro; brother 
to the present King. The corresponding officer amongst 
the Amazons is known as Khe-tun-gan,| and her 
•deputy is the Zokhenu. § 

The chief civilian Captain of the Left is tlie Men,! 
Tvho is the second subject in th& empire. He speaks 
from the King to the people, collects the revenues, 
receives tribute, declares war, appoints, according to 
some, the Gau. And the Po-su, and has the charge of all 

* There are many ways of writing this word. Commissioner Forbes 
prefers Agaow, M. Wallon, Gao, and the History, Agaow, with a sus- 
picion of derivation from the Turkish Agha! 

t Ahwan (war), and gan (a captain). This rank includes all officers 
that can bring ten to a hundred dependants or slaves into the field. 

J Meaning Khe (bird), tun (hammering), and gan (metal). 

§ The Zoheino of the History, 

II The word is said to mean "hisraiment fits him." Itis spelt with 
more or less error, Mayho, Mayhoo, Mahu, Mehou (there is no aspirate, 
but a diseresis), and Mayo, The Egbas of Abeokuta translate the 
title " Osin." 



THE PEOCESSION. 223 

strangers visiting the King. He also exectites the 
criminals of Addo-Kpon, the Bush King, an institution 
■which, with tlie reader's le:ave, I will explain at a future 
time.* The present tenant of office was once cele- 
brated for his memory, and could so class- facts that he 
never forgot name or event : with the poor mnemoni- 
cal aid of a few beans or seeds he managed the compli- 
cated affairs of Dahome. In those days his power was 
great, and he required to be bought at a high price. 
He is now an old, old man,t with hollow cheeks and 
toothless gums, which make his mouth appear' lipless — 
the only predicament which produces this phenomenon in 
Africa. He easily forgets ; he appears to be half asleep ; 
and he is manifestly becoming childish. The King has- 
occasionally hinted at his retirement; but the decrepid 
senior clamours to be kept on, declaring, perhaps 
truly, that .do-nothingness -would kill him : his exceed- 
ing rapacity and big eye J would, if unglutted, certainly 



* Mr. Duncan (vol. i. pp. 250 — 251), describes a horrible scene " in 
■which poor old Mayho, who is an excellent man, was the proper exe- 
cutioner." 

t Eight years ago, M. "Wallon made him ninety. But negro longevityis 
-very uncertain in these lands, where, to sum up the almost diabolical 
wisdom of the white man, people say " He knows his own age." 

X Covetousness : a common Ffon phrase is, " E su nukun " (he has a 
big eye). Mr. Duncan (vol. i. p. 217), calls him an " excellent old man, 



224 A MISSION TO GELELE. 

cause his death. But he has served as a "politic 
blade " many a king. At times he waxes bright, and 
calls to mind the Captain Springatha so facetiously 
depicted by the commander of the " Hannibal of London." 
His favourite garb is an unclean shirt, an alpaca jacket 
worn to rustiness, and broad silver armlets — Mr. Dun- 
can's " silver gauntlets " — upon the brown sleeves, when 
he manages to look exceedingly mean. His heutenant 
. is styled the Bi-wan-ton.* Though not of royal blood, 
he has lately succeeded to the name and rank of a 
nephew of the King who debauched the twin prin- 
cesses due in marriage to the Min^gan and the Meu. 
The culprit is imprisoned, but, as a scion of royalty, he 
receives food from his own house, and he is allowed 
a single slave. No intercourse with his wives is per- 
mitted. Thus his greatest punishment is what we 
administer to our convicts gratis. The corresponding 
officer among the Amazons is known as the Akpa- 
dume,t and her deputy is the Fosupo.| 

and very different from the generality of uncivilised Africans, not having 
that covetous and selfish disposition usual with them." Now it is 
notoriously the contrary. 

* Bi (all), wan (love), ton (belonging to), meaning that the King's 
love is over all those whom he has made. 

t Hence Mr. Duncan's Apadomey regiment, and Apadomey soldiers 
(vol..i. pp. 232, 233). t The Phussopoh of the History. 



THE PEOCESSION. 223 

Under the Meu, and related to him, as the Gau is 
to the Min-gan, ranks the Po-su.* He may also be 
described as the head ■war-man to the Meu, tmder the 
Commander-in-Chief. The present incumbent is by 
no means of prepossessing presence. He is a youngish 
warrior, black, lean, and muscular. The loss of an eye 
when Gezo attacked Abeokuta, adds to his scowling 
look. He appears ever sick or surly ; and his wool, 
worn longer than usual, stands upright in little tufts 
and pigtails, like a thrum mop. His lieutenant is the 
Ahwigbamen, one of the King's brothers. Under the 
Po-su ranks the Ajyaho, the " Jahou " of the History, 
and there called " Captain of Horse." Though not a 
neuter, he is the chief of the eunuchs, whose offences 
he punishes. He swears witnesses, and he has medi- 
cines to elicit the truth. 

These high officials, the Min-gan and Meu, the Gau 
and Po-su, or one of them, failing the Ajyaho, lead the 
four battalions which the Dahoman army numbers, in 
the field. The Amazons are, it has been seen, similarly 
conducted. 

The third personage in the realm is the Yevo-gan, 

' I have alluded to this dignitary in Chapter II. The name' is 
written by Commander Forbes, Possoo, and by M. Wallon, Poissou. ' 

VOL. I. ' „ " 



226 A MISSION TO GELELE. 

whose functions I have described." By the state law of 
Dahome, as at Benin, all men are slaves to the King, 
and most women are his wives. The blood-royal is 
the only freedom in the country, and it probably does 
not exceed two thousand souls. 

After the Bonu-gans, the Owu-tu-nun (royal attend- 
ants), and the Ahwan-gan, rank the Akhi 'sino,* or 
great traders, who pay over duties to the King. They 
are in fact the "merchant princes" of Dahome, and they 
certainly lead a more useful life than the Ahwan-gan, 
or mihtary class, which will do nothing but eat and 
drink, dance, make war, and attend Customs. In the 
fifth rank are the petty governors and captains, to 
whom the King gives the insignia and the property of 
their predecessors, and who are degraded for the most 
trifling reasons — the neglect of some ceremonial, or the 
evil report of a messenger. 

Returning to the western part of the palace, where 
sits the little host of high oflGicials, we find them 
inspecting their retainers, especiaUy the comparues 
which had saluted us. These militia troops were 
marching round, singing, dancing, firing, and perform- 
ing other evolutions distinguished by immense noisi- 

* Akhi (market), si for asi (a wife), no (mother). 



THE PROCESSION. 227 

ness. We finished in hammocks our three ofiicial tours 
of the Addogwin market-place, each time stopping to 
salute the Sublime Porte. At 2-45 p.m., after the last 
salutation, "we retired about a hundred yards, and, 
facing eastward, sat down till summoned to "the 
presence." 

The heat was excessive, and the dancers' dust stained 
us red. After half-an-hour, a silver bell and a pair of 
horns hurrying up, motioned us to arise and advance. 
This person was the To-no-nun, or chief eunuch, whose 
functions, including those of his brother of&cial, the 
Kan-gbo-de, must, at the risk of wearying the reader, 
be explained before I can hope to make the interior of 
the palace intelligible. So complicated are the various 
offices and the ceremonious receptions amongst these 
people, who own no other study in life ! 

The To-no-nun* is the chief of the Owu-tu-nun,t or 
body attendants upon the sovereign, the others being the 
Binazun, the Buko-no, and their followers. This head 
eunuch is the fourth personage in the realm — royalty not 

* To (town), no (mother), nun (mouth), meaning that all must obey 
him. Commissioner Forbes writes the word Toononoo, and M. "Wallon 
who understood even less of the language, Tolonnou. 

t From Owa (a body). These personal attendants are entirely distinct 
from the warriors. 

Q 2 



22S A MISSION TO GELELE. 

included. He is the minister of the palace interior, 
beyond -which his authority does not extend ; he attends 
the King's person, and on great occasions he interprets 
between the women oflBcers and strangers. Outside, he 
commands the corp of eunuchs, who have an especial 
residence in the city. During the late Gezo's reign, he 
was on great occasions the organ of communication 
between his master and the Meu ; it was also his duty 
to rinse out the glasses in which toasts were drunk, and 
to swallow the water, a custom now obsolete. The 
present incumbent is very old, with a peculiarly baboon- 
like countenance, and it is hardly possible to distin- 
guish him from a senior of the other sex. He affects 
silver horns and a blue broadcloth long coat, of quasi- 
European cut, which, trivial as the comparison may 
appear, forces upon the mind the idea of a magnified 
bluebottle fly ; and he loves to buzz about as fast as his 
emaciated limbs can carry him. He had a narrow 
escape at the accession of the present ruler : properly 
speaking, he should have accompanied his liege lord to 
Deadland. Gezo, however, left express orders that he 
must be spared, lest, in the hands of a young and 
inexperienced king, the ceremonial of the Dahoman 
Court might suffer let or change. He is now safe, as 



THE PROCESSION. 229 

he is held to have been re-emplaced by the Gbwe- 
■wedo,* who is called To-no-nun or chief eunuch " for 
the present King." By the custom of this strange 
kingdom there is a chief To-no-nun, euuuchess " of the 
inside." She is called the Yavedo,t and her second 
in command, the sub-To-no-nun for the present King, is 
the Visese-gan. 

The Kan-gbo-de| is another personal attendant, 
-whose duties, like those of the To-no-nun, do not 
extend beyond the palace gates. He is the chief of the 
royal huissiers, and inspects the guards at the several 
entrances. He wears round his neck a large silver 
bell, and his attendants have similar but smaller 
articles, to proclaim silence before the King speaks : 
they also precede the royal steps, to remove any sticks 
or stones hkely to offend. The late dignitary attached 
to the old king used to present strangers ; he was, 

* " Otton-iweffa," is the title of the second chief eunueh at Yoruban 
courts. 

+ Ta (they), vedo (think). 

t Kan (rope), 'gbo (cut, or finished), and de (octroi, or town dues). 
This is au enigmatical title, after true Dahoman fashion, alluding to the 
official having command of the rear guard. When the rope which, 
stretched across the road, forms the turnpike of these regions, is 
removed by the master of the custom-house, all can proceed. Com- 
mander Forbes spells the word Camboodee, and M. Wallon translates 
it " Grand ChambeUan." 



230 A MISSION TO GELELE. 

however, permanently degraded for wilfully riding on 
horseback up to the royal gate.. The present holder of 
the office is a young man, and his assistant, forming the 
normal Dahoman " happy pair," is the Kakokpwe, the 
dignitary who met us at Whydah. The chief warrior 
of the Kan-gbo-de is the Ko-ko'aje, who, having been 
captured at the attack on Abeokuta, was bought by a 
gentlewoman, and converted into a husband and Abeo- 
kutan " gentleman." The Dahomans swear that he must 
be retaken. 

The Bi-na-zon,* whom the missionaries, ever think- 
ing of Pharaoh, call " chief butler " for the worst of all 
possible reasons, is the King's head store-keeper. He 
has charge of the royal cloth, cowries, and rum, and 
thus he corresponds with our " treasurer." He is a sub- 
ject, and not of the blood-royal ; but a pleasant fellow 
withal. The corresponding officer of the inside, is 
called the Vi-de-k'alo. 

* Bi (all), na (I), zon (walk). 



CHAPTER IX. 

THE EECEPTION. 

Marshalled by "Silver Bell and Giraffe Horns," 
■we entered the royal gate, first removing our swords 
and closing our umbrellas, which may not appear before 
the King.* We were told to walk hurriedly across the 

* The Eing's name in Dahome must be pronounced with bated breath. 
For in Dahome the King in his own person absorbs the undivided respect 
of the people. In England we adhere to the princely name ; e.g., 

Nana Sahib rest unsung, 
Let none speak of Badahung, 

which is as correctly applied to Gelele as would be " Duke of Clarence " to 
William IV. after coronation. To utter it in his presence would, in the 
case of a subject, be death : once crowned, the King must forget his 
antecedents as an Adding, and this is the common practice of African 
monarchs, even to the petty chiefs of the Congo. Many child princes, 
sons of the actual dynast, have been to my quarters, and have held out 
the hand for bread : and such a small boy the present ruler once was. 
Dr. M'Leod, however, errs in stating that the royal relatives, such as 
half-brothers and sisters, are slaves. 

The word Badahung, or Badahong (which M. "Wallon writes Buiahou, 
and others Badahou and Badou), is properly Ba (bamboo), do (pushes or 
poles), hun (the cause) : it is, therefore, not very dignified. 



232 A MISSION TO GELELE. 

neai'er half of the palace yard, and presently we halted 
at a circle of pure loose white sand, where the ministers 
prostrated themselves — silex, not mud, heing Court 
powder for the great in Dahome. There we doffed hats 
and caps, and waving them in the right hand, bowed 
four several times to a figure that was sitting under 
the chiar'oscuro of the thatch, and was, we were told, 
returning our compliments. 

This preliminary over, we were made to advance 
very slowly — the native officials bending almost double, 
and uttering in drawn out unison " d — i — i ! " to warn 
the Court that others besides the inmates of the palace 
were approaching. A few steps placed us close to the 
King, who merits especial notice, 

Gelele,* also known as Dahome-Dadda — the grand- 
father of Dahome — is in the full vigour of Hfe, from 
forty to forty-five, before the days of increasing belly 

* Gelele is, as we often find amongst kingly names in tlie Hwe-'gbc- 
'ajya dynasty of Dahome, the initial word of a phrase — Gelele (bigness), 
ma nyonzi (with no way of lifting). For the strong names or titles, 
the curious reader will consult Appendix IV. 

As regards the dynastic name, first assumed by King Aho (Adaho- 
onzou I.), Hwe-'gbe-'ajya, it corresponds with Osai (Osei) of Ashanti, 
and may be broadly compared with the Egyptian Pharaoh. The mean- 
ing is, Hwe (a fish), egbe (will not enter), ajya (a weir) ; viz. : If a fish 
shun the trap it will not be caught, so no one can do anything 
against Dahome. 



THE EECErTION. 233 

and decreasing leg. He looks a king of (negro), men, 
without tenderness of heart or weakness of head, and 
he appears in form and complexion the /cdXXisros avrjp 
of this black Iliad. His person is athletic, upwards of 
six feet high, lithe, agile, thin flanked and broad 
shouldered, with muscular Umbs, well turned wrists and 
neat ankles, but a distinctly cucumber-shaped shin. 
The skull is rounded and well set on : the organs of 
locality stand prominently out; a slight baldness 
appears upon the poll, and the "regions of cautious- 
ness " are covered by two cockade-hke tufts of hair, 
mostly worn in Dahome for the purpose of attaching 
coral, Popo-beads, or brass and silver conelets. His 
hair, generally close shaven, is of the peppercorn 
variety, the eyebrows are scant, the beard is thin, and 
the moustachios are thinner. He has not his father's 
receding forehead, nor the vanishing chin which dis- 
tinguishes the multitude : his strong jaw renders the 
face indeed "jowly" rather than oval, consequently the 
expression is normally hard, though open and not ill- 
humoured, whilst the smile which comes out of it is 
pleasaut. His nails are allowed to attain mandarin- 
length : * the African king must show that he is an 
* This length of talon probably suggested to elder travellers the idea 



234 A MISSION TO GELELE. 

eater ©f meat, not of " monkey's food" — fruits and vege- 
tables. Moreover, talons are useful amongst ragouts, 
in lands where no man has yet been called furcifer^ 
His sub-tumid lips disclose ■white, strong, and sound 
teeth, the inner surfaced being somewhat blackened by 
tobacco. His eyes are red, bleared, and inflamed, 
betraying an opacity of the cornea which may end in 
blindness. An ophthalmist might here thrive upon the 
smallest display of skill. This complaint is not the 
gift of rum, for the King is a very moderate drinker, 
and prefers wines and beer, of which he has an ample 
store, to rum and gin. The glare of the country, the 
Harmattan winds, the exposure during the long recep- 
tion hours, perpetual smoking, and lastly, a somewhat 
excessive devotion to Venus, are the causes. The nose 
is distinctly retrousse, quasi-negro, anti-aquiline, looking 
in fact as if all the lines had been turned the wrong 
way, — this mean and hideous concave is the African 



of a poison-globule stuck under the nail of the little finger, which was 
gradually protruded into the calabash or. drinking- cup, when the venom 
instantly dissolved. Captain Phillips was told by a caboeeer of Whydah, 
whom he had " well warmed with brandy and other strong liquors (here 
the key of most secrets)," that it was brought from a distant inland 
country, and that three to four slaves was the price of a single fatal 
dose. But brandy has the power of heating the imagination as well as 
the other faculties. 



THE EECEPTION. 235 

substitute for the beautiful, the sympathetic, and the 
noble convexity of the Caucasian,— but it is not much 
flattened, nor does it wholly want bridge. The lines of 
wrinkle subtending the corners of the mouth are 
deeply, but not viciously, marked : and the same may 
be said concerning the crumpling of the forehead 
during momentary excitement. According to some, he 
is afflicted with chronic renal disease. He has suffered 
severely from the small-pox — the national scourge — 
which has by no means spared his race.* The only 
vestige of tattoo is the usual Dahoman mark, three short 
parallel and perpendicular lancet cuts, situated nearer 
the scalp than the eyebrows, a little above the place 
where the latter meet the zygomata. 



* "We read in the History that the great Agaja was " pitted with the 
small-pox, or perhaps tattooed in iraitation of it, as is customary in the 
country.'' And we are especially informed that at Whydah both sexes 
thus adorned their cheeks and foreheads — a practice now obsolete. The 
old Dahoman sign was a perpendicular incision between the eyebrows : 
the women marked the lower parts of the body with various devices. 
The modern is described in the text. Mr. Duncan (vol i. p. 266), 
wrongly asserts " the Dahomans are not marked at all, except such 
marks or tattooing as the parents may choose to inflict on the lower 
parts of the person by way of ornament." The Alladas used to make an 
incision in each cheek, turning up the flesh towards the ears, and allow- 
ing it to heal in that position — a hideous device also forgotten. 

The sixth king, Sinmenkpen (Adahoonzou II.), died of smaU-pox in 
1789. The late Gezo, after marching on Popo, is said to have fallen 



236 A MISSION TO GELELE. 

M. Wallou, ■who probably never saw the present ruler, 
declares that he exactly resembles Gezo, "whereas the 
latter was extremely dark-complexioned.* Also we 
read of his character : " Ruse, tenace et tres dissimule, 
il est aussi plus inUresse que son pere, et passe pour 
tres cruel." But Gelele always disliked and distrusted 
Frenchmen — en animam et menfem ! There can be no 
greater contrast than that between the sovereign and 
the ignoble-looking heges, who, Hindu-like, after a 
certain age, either shrivel to skeletons or distend to 
treble bulk, and who, though rarely resembling the 
typical negro of the text book,t are not unfrequently 
black as ill-brushed boots. The pure reddish-browu 
of his skin, not unlike that of the so-called copper- 
coloured Indian, and several shades lighter than the 
lightest to be seen at his Court, confirms the general 



from the sequelcs of the same terrible disease, which has thus killed 
two kings out of a total of eight. 

* Mr. Duncan (vol. i. p. 224) describes Gezo, in 1845, as a " tall 
athletic man about forty-three years of age (he was older), with 
pleasing expression and good features, but the top of his forehead falling 
back rather too much to meet the views of a phrenologist." 

t The same may he said of the typical John Bull, Johnny Crapaud, 
Paddy, and Brother Jonathan : we have selected an exception, a carica- 
ture. But such negroes do exist : I can point out a Yoruban family at 
Lagos which fulfils every external condition of the link between man 
and monkey. 



THE EEOEPTION. 237 

report that his mother is a slave-girl from the northern 
Makhi:* others whisper that she is a mulatto from 
the French factory, Whydah. 

Like Gezo, Gezo's son and heir affects a dress simple 
to excess. His head is often bare : on this occasion 
he ■wore a short cyHndrical straw cap, with a ribbon- 
band of purple velvet round the middle. A Bo-fetish 
against sickness, in the shape of a human incisor, strung 
below the crown, and a single blue Popo-bead, of little 
value, was hanging to a thick thread about his neck. 
Despising the Bonugan-ton, or broad silver armlets of 
his caboceers, he contented himself with a narrow armil- 



1 In Mr. Norris's map the "Mahees" are placed west of Agbome. 
Their mountain-lands are to be seen rising due north of the capital : the 
tribes in the yioinity are subject to the King, the more distant are 
independent, and even court his attacks. Mr. Duncan, the only 
white man who explored the country, tells us (vol. i. p. 246), that 
" Makee is pronounced Mahee in the Kong mountains," and relates that 
the Dahomans there took 126 towns, making the greater part of the enemy 
prisoners. In June, 1863, the army of Dahome, after fourteen marches, 
probably short and circuitous, turned round upon a hostile clan, which 
defended itself so well that but few were taken. Indeed, I heard a 
report at Little Popo, that the King had been killed and the army 
destroyed by cannon sent up the Volta Kiver. 

The Makhi are a well made and comparatively light-complexioned 
people. Their tribe mark is now a black line raised, as amongst the Ejo 
of Benin, above the skin, from the hair to the root of the nose, but not 
extending beyond. , Formerly, they cut three long oblique marks on . 
one cheek, and a cross on the other. Their women are prized for 
matrimony : the mother of King Sinmenkpen was a Makhi girl. 



240 A MISSION TO GELELE. 

and through the open entrance slave girls peeped at the 
proceedings. I regret to say that not a pretty face 
appeared, most of the "fair sex" had sooty skins, and 
the few browns showed negro features. They atoned 
for this homeliness by an extreme devotion to their 
lord and master : woman's position on earth, say 
Easterns, is to look up to somebody, and these certainly 
do, so far, their duty. It is no wonder that the King 
of Dahome's soul, like my " Lord Keeper's," lodges well 
If perspiration appears upon the royal brow it is in- 
stantly removed with the softest cloth by the gentlest 
hands ; if the royal dress be disarranged, it is at once 
adjusted ; if the I'oyal lips move, a plated spittoon, 
which, when Mr. Norris wrote, was gold, held by one 
of the wives, is moved within convenient distance ; if 
the King sneezes,* all present touch the ground with 
their foreheads ; if he drinks, every lip utters an excla- 

* In Ffon, "nyin" is a sneeze; manifestly, like ours, an imitative 
■word. Almost throughout Africa, there is some superstition connected 
with this convulsion. In Senaar, courtiers turn the back, and slap the 
right thigh. Old authors tell us that when the " King of Monomotapa " 
sneezed, it became a national concern. Those nearest the royal person 
howled a salutation, which was taken up by the antechamber; and 
when the horrid cry had. run through the palace, it was re-echoed 
by the whole city. In Europe the superstition is, that St. Gregory 
instituted a benediction upon the sneezer, because during a certain 
pestilence the unseemly act was a fatal symptom. 



THE RECEPTION. 241 

mation of blessing. This intense personal veneration 
reminded me of the accounts of Mohammed the apostle 
and of his followers left by contemporary writers. But 
without analysing too far, I suspect that in Dahome 
it is rather the principle than the person that is 
respected, the despotism more than the despot, the 
turban rather than the wearer : that were the King to 
be succeeded on the morrow, the same semi-idolatry 
would be heaped upon his successor. However that 
may be, the Dahoman King must only condescend to 
live, all, save what must necessarily be done by himself, 
is done for him. Such a life appears wearisome ; but 
kings are unlike common men, and the ways of princes 
are mysteries to the multitude. To this exceeding 
care only can be attributed the protracted reigns of a 
dynasty, whose eight members have sat upon the 
throne 252 years, thus rivalling the seven Roman 
monarchs whose rule extended over nearly the same 
period, and has caused them to be held fabulous or 
typical. 

We walked towards the entrance down the clear lane' 
hedged by squatting Amazons, and we formed up in a 
group close to and opposite the King. The Meu, and 
his dependent the English landlord, who acted as it 

VOL. I. 



242 A inSSION TO GELELE. 

were our spoiisors, supported our right, the Yevo-gan 
and the Junior Min-gan our left, and all reclined upon 
the ground in the position of Romans upon the 
triclinium. 

After the usual quadruple bowings and hand wavings, 
the King arose, tucked in' his toga, descended from his 
estrade, donned his slippers — each act being aided by 
some dozen nimble feminine fingers — and advancing, 
greeted me with sundry vigorous wrings a la John 
Bull.* Still grasping my hand, he inquired after the 
health of the sovereign, the ministry, and the people of 
England, which he and his naturally suppose to be a 
little larger and a much richer Dahome surrounded by 
water. He then asked more particularly concerning 
the To-ji-'khosuf or Commodore, the Gau or Captain 
Luce, and the Amma-sin-blu-to or Dr. Haran, his last 
year's visitors. Gelele is said to have a right royal 
recollection of faces, names, and histories, A long com- 

* His father uaed to affect witt Englishmen a " familiar slap on the 
back with his open palm." 

t To (water, especially the ocean, a pool, or » stream), ji (upon), 
'khosu, for Akhosu by Synalepha (a king). " Gau," I have already 
explained. Amma (tree, or other leaf), sin (water, the componnd word 
leaf-water meaning " medicine "), and blu-to (he who makes). Amma- 
bluto, or Amma-sin-blu-to, is the proper name for a doctor or surgeon ; 
Amma-sin-kpele is the title of an oflBoer, in whose charge is placed the 
Kixig's medicine. 



THE EECEPTION". 243 

pliment was paid to me upon my having kept word 
in returning : I bad promised on a previous occasion 
to apply for permission to revisit Dahome, and here 
to redeem a promise is a thing unknown. The King 
frequently afterwards referred to this trifle, attaching 
great importance to truth-telling, and assuring me that 
it made me his good friend.* It reminded me of — 

Beholde the manne ! he spake the truthe, 
Hee's greater than a kynge ! 

He then finally snapped fingers with a will. Mr, 
Cruilcshank wore a naval frock, which looked dull near 
a scarlet uniform, having no epaulettes ; his accueil 
was less ceremonious. Lastly, the Reverend received 
the greeting of a friend, and the King, before returning 
to his seat, kindly noticed the boy Tom. 

Our stools were placed before the throne, and we 
sat whilst the materials for health-drinking were taken 

* Truth, being a peculiarly rare article, is highly valued here. King 
Sinmenkpen said to Governor Ahson (1803), who, being a resident of 
thirty-seven years in the country, had attempted a mild deceit, that " he 
wished the Englishman had not been so much of a Dahoman-man, as to 
make use of any artifice." I have myself been put to shame by hearing 
a Camaroons Eiver chief declare to a Baptist missionary, who was 
palpably prevaricating, that had the truth been told, all would have 
been well. It must be a curiously self-sufficient brain that will enter 
into the lists of lying with an African. 

R 2 



244 A MISSION TO GELELE. 

from under a red calico cloth which lay upon a ricketty 
table near the entrance, with legs once gilt. It is 
not customary to address royalty, even though the 
presentee be acquainted with the language.* The 
sovereign's words are spoken to the Meu, who informs 
the interpreter, who passes it on to the visitor, and the 
answer must trickle back through the same channels. 
It is evident the King will never hear anything 
offensive, and that he will ignore all beyond his actual 
inspection. I at once saw the necessity of attacking 
the dialect, and, despite the nervous terrors of the hen- 
hearted Beecham, who seemed to think teaching treason, 
I had the satisfaction, before departure, of understand- 
ing most conversations in Ffon, and of being able to 
join in a simple dialogue. 

After Sin-diyye! and Sin-ko! we drank in three 
several liquors to the health of the Sovereign, the 
Commodore, and my humble self. After bowing and 
touching glasses, the King suddenly wheeled round, 
whilst two wives stretched a white calico cloth by way 
of a screen before him, and another pair opened small 
and gaudy parasols, so as completely to conceal his 

* On the other hand, there is none of the ceremonial absurdity which 
compels mere answers to a royal question or remark. 



THE EECEPTION. 245 

figure fi'om our gaze. There was ft prodigious out- 
burst of noise. Guns were fired, " Amazons " tinkled 
bells, and sprang kra-kra, or watchmen's rattles, 
ministers bent to the ground clapping their palms, and 
commoners bawled «Po-o-o" {i.e., " Bleo ! "— " Take 
it easy !"), cowering to avoid the dread sight, turning 
their backs if sitting, and if standing they danced like 
bears, or they paddled their hands like the forefeet of a 
swimming dog. We were not expected to move.* 

* Africans and some Asiatics are most subject to ■witchcraft when 
eating and drinking ; the Maldivian Islanders, for instance, eat alone in 
the recesses of their houses, fearing lest some unlucky cantrip be played 
■with the victuals. Moreo^ver, in most places, the King is too great a man 
to eat, drink, or sleep at all. The origin of the idea is intelligible : it 
could not have been imposing to see the august person of George III. 
" at dinner on mutton and turnips." Hence the old kings of France 
preferred to be served by knights on horseback. The Alake of Abeokuta 
must be hidden even ■whilst he enjoys a prise. It was certain death to 
see the petty King of Loango eat or drink, which he did in different 
houses. "When the cup was handed to him, an attendant struck together 
two iron rods, the thickness of a man's finger : aU who heard it buried 
their faces in the sand till the sound ceased, and then clapped hands, 
and uttered blessings, (Barbot : Supplement.) Also, no one might 
drink in the presence except by turning back upon royalty, which is 
also the case for all but white men at Dahome. The negroes of 
"Ardra," we are told, used in friendship the same cup, showing that 
the idea of dignity has done much towards surrounding the act with 
ceremony. 

Mr. Ditton has quoted upon this subject from the description of 
Henry YII. and Elizabeth of York's coronation: first, "The Lady 
Elizabeth Grey and Mistress Ditton went under the table and sat at the 
Queen's feet, and the Countesses of Oxford and Rivers knelt on each 



248 A MISSION TO GELELB. 

tribes of Asia, who fear the pen as . they do the 
fiend. 

I now proceed to portray the salient features of the 
King's levee. It was to me the most interesting scene 
in Dahome, showing more of picturesqueness and less 
of grotesqueness and tragedy than any other. 

The long barn under which Gelele set Avas built 
against the eastern wall, which Avas clay • fresh; palm 
leaves, matted and planted as a fence, forming the "other 
three sides of the oblong court. The regularity was 
relieved by a few poor sheds, and the only objects of 
remark in the yard were the familiar bundles of fetish 
sticks and a pollarded tree supporting an earthenware 
pot, with two pennons on tall poles. Along the shed, 
which was confined to the King and his wives, ran a line 
of four-and-twenty umbrellas, forming an extempore 
verandah. Those on the flanks were vdiite, and mostly 
very ragged, sheltering the chieftainesses of the she 
soldiers : in the centre, denoting the place where the 
King sat, they affected the gaudish tulip tints, dazzhng 
hues, variegated, yet in perfect harmonies — scarlet 
tender green, purple, white, and light blue : an especial 
favourite was red and yellow ; it is called in England 
Satan's livery, but when massed it excites the eye. 



THE EBCEPTION. 249 

These richly tinted umbrella-canopies are forbidden to 
all save royalty, and the King takes no little pride in 
them.* 

The only diffei:ence between the outer and the inner 
court is this^the former is a parade of the male, the 
latter of the female soldiers, and the first glance shows 
that both bodies exactly correspond. Mid-ribs of 
bamboo-palm [Rapliia vinifera), in single line, lie on the 
ground separating the sexes ; this thin barrier no one 
is allowed to pass. The instrument of communication 
is the Mahaikpa, a princess who has not been seen for 
two years, and who consequently may be dead. Below 
the throne there is always one of her retainers, the 
" Dakro," a middle-aged woman, formerly attached to 
Gezo's Court, and a mighty stickler for ceremony. 
The Dakro bears messages from the King to the Meu, 
who passes on the words to the Min-gan, whence they 
find their way to the many. She walks out of the shed 
holding a war stick in her right hand, places it on the 
earth, kneels close behind the bamboo line, and resting 

* They are manifestly made upon a European model. Mr. Duncan, 
who writes with the simplicity of a child, tells us (vol. ii. p. 271), that 
the King caused him to enter a memorandum of several patterns for 
canopies, desiring him to order a numher of them to be sent from 
England. At the present moment (August, 1864) one of these umbrellas 
maybe seen at the rooms of the Koyal Geographical Society, London. 



250 A MISSION TO GELELE. 

elbows on thighs, or sometimes with one hand on the 
ground, whispers her errand, almost touching heads. 
As a rule she goes on all fours to the Meu, and only 
kneels to smaller men, who become quadrupeds to her. 
A favourite gesture with both sexes here is to smooth 
the ground before them with one or both palms, clear- 
ing as it were the place for prostration : it is the whit- 
tling of the Yankee, and it serves to conceal thought. 
The message is received by the minister in a similar 
position, the feet resting upon the toes and the heels 
supporting the posteriors. After obtaining the answer 
the Bakro rises, returns to within the barn, makes 
obeisance, and placing herself on all fours — the nearest 
approach to our brethren of the field since the days of 
Nebuchadnezzar — either upon the ground or upon a 
mat, before and close to the King, duly delivers it to the 
royal ears. Nothing but the prodigious memory for 
trifles possessed by this people prevents a commuitica- 
tion that travels so far from losing all its original sense. 
Outside the bamboos, divided, as has been said, into 
two distinct groups, stand the ministers. All are in 
their richest attire, gay with tunics of bright silk and 
satin. The Min-gan wears eight necklaces, with a silver 
ornament like a, fleur-de-lis or trefoil, hanging upon his 



THE EECEPTION. 251 

breast. The Meu has doffed his alpaca jacket,, displays 
fine and valuable pink coral in long strings, with thira. 
thread pigtails lashed on to them, silver armlets adorned 
■with the British Lion, and with two quasi-human heads 
which may have belonged to William and Mary ; whilst 
the emblem of Christianity, in gold, depends from his 
neck. But the crucifix is strangely altered, the crucified 
being a chameKon, the venerable emblem of the rain- 
bow-god. This is not done far malice, like the ass 
placed by the irreverent caricaturist upon what is, 
according to Dr. Eossi, the earhest known cross — it is 
the simple instinct of a barbarous race. The Adanejan, 
or assistant Min-gan, is more than usually gorgeous. 
He is a huge Cyclops of a black, with a jetty face, at 
least one size larger than his brain-pan, and a faux air 
de jeune homme, effected by close shaving his stiff 
whitey-grey beard and hair. Though long past " fright- 
ful forty," he is much addicted to women, and he is ever 
"chaffing" the Eeverend about marrying a daughter to 
him. A great trencherman, with a roUicEng laugh that 
quakes his fat sides, the big eupatrid is of somewhat 
offensive presence ; he is moreover a professed beggar, 
and what meets his touch never leaves it. 

Won fuit Autolyci tarn pioeata manns. 



252 A MISSION TO GELELE. 

The Gau is rendered conspicuous by his big brass 
bracelets. The surly Po-su wears four brass rings on 
his left arm, and his forehead is always ceremoniously 
marked with white sand or red earth. All the lesser 
fry are clad like their betters, in tunics of rich native 
cloth, and ornamented with horns, silver bracelets, 
armlets, crucifixes, trefoil-shaped articles, and necklaces, 
of which some wore as many as ten ; Popo beads, large 
and small ; coral, red and pink ; blue and white glass 
beads ; green, yellow, and variegated pottery ; while 
some have neck-ropes of black and blue seed beads 
disposed in patterns. 

On the King's proper right, in the wing presided 
over by the Khe-tun-gan (female Gau, or Commander- 
in-Chief), and outside the big barn, enthroned on a lofty 
chair, sat the Akutu ; she is captainess of King Gezo's 
life-guards, called the 'Mman, or Madmen, the Bashi 
Buzuks, or Enfans Perdus of the Dahomau host. This 
dignitary is a huge old porpoise, wearing a bonnet 
shaped like that of a French cordon bleu, but pink and 
white below, with two crocodiles of blue cloth on the 
top, and the whole confined by silver horns and their 
lanyard. To the left of royalty, more in the open and 
under a tent-umbrella, upon as tall a seat as the Akutu 



THE EJECEPTION. 2d3 

enjoyed, is the Humbagi, the corresponding veteraness 
on the Men's side. She is also vast in breadth, and a 
hammer-head in silver projecting from her forehead, 
gives her the semblance of a unicorn. As a rule the 
wavrioresses begin to fatten when their dancing days 
are passed, and some of them are p rodigies of obesity. 

The flower of the host was the mixed company of 
young Amazons lately raised by the King ; this corps, 
standing to the north of the palace yard, and on the 
right of the throne, was evidently composed of the 
largest and finest women in the service. Behind it 
stood its band, a Chingufu or African cymbal, two small 
tom-toms held under the arm, and four kettledrums 
of sizes, beaten with hand or stick. The newly-chosen 
company apparently contained two hundred, and the 
whole court certainly did not show more than one 
thousand. Some Amazons, however, are now absent, 
attacking, I have said, a village in the Makhi country, 
which distinguished itself by grossly insulting the King, 
by threatening to kill him and his army. They will 
have an easy victory.* 

* It seems a peculiarity of climate in those lands, and the History 
•can supply several instances, that compels individuals and tribes mortally 
and wantonly to insult a rancorous and hatefiU race lilce that of Dahome 
and then entirely to forget the injury, so as to take no precautions against 



254 A MISSION TO GELELE. 

The gala-dress of the guardesses was decent, and mft, 
uncomely. A narrow fillet of blue or white cotton 
bound the hair, and the bosom was concealed by a 
sleeveless waistcoat of various colours, giving freedom to 
the arms, and buttoning in front like that affected by 
Hausa Moslems. The loin wrapper, of dyed stuff, 
mostly blue, pink, and yellow, extended to the ancles, 
and was kept tight round the waist by a sash, generaUy 
white, with long ends depending on the left. The body 
toilette was rendered more compact by an outer girth- 
ing of cartridge-box and belt, European-shaped, but 
home-made, of black leather, adorned with cowries; 
or of bandoleers, containing in separate compartments, 
twelve to sixteen . wooden gunpowder boxes, like 
cases for lucifer matches. The bullet-bag, with a few 
iron balls, hung by a shoulder-strap to the dexter 

vengeance. The History tells us that the people of " Wemey,'' a petty 
■village near " Porto Novo," that could perhaps muster one to every 
hundred Dahoman warriors, sent a challenge to one of the greatest of 
the kings, threatening, if not attacked, to march on. Agbome. The 
Idng returned, as usual, an ironical answer, saying that he would soon 
dispatch his Gau with guns, powder, and ii'on (lead heing here un- 
known), for the use of his brave foe ; attacked the place, which he 
found unprepared, and " broke " it without the people making an effort 
at self-defence. So in 1728, Governor Testesole, of Whydah, exasperated 
hy the insolence of the Dahoman traders, whipped one of their principal 
men at the flag-post, and said that he would serve the King (Agaja) ia 
the same manner, if he could. That governor was, of course, murdered. 



THE EECEPTION. 255 

side, and was preserved in position by being passed 
under tbe cartridge-belt. All had knives, or short Da- 
homan falchions,* in shape not unlike, though smaller 
than, that -most fatal— to the wearer— of all weapons, 
the old French briquet. The firelock, a good solid 
Tower-marked article,! was guarded by sundry charms, 
and protected from damp by a case of black monkey- 
skin tightly clasping the breeching, and opening to the 
rear. Many had long tassels dangling from the barrels. 
The only other peculiarity in the court was a row of 
thre*e large calabashes, ranged on the ground before 
and a little to the left of royalty. They contain the 
calvarise of the three chief amongst forty kings, or petty 

* Curious to say, wliilst many of the central African tribes are adepts 
at smelting iron, it is an art unknown to the rude Dahoman ; although 
the material abounds in the northern country, they import it from 
Europe. The blade is hut slightly curved, one edged, and poorly 
tempered, about sixteen inches long, and I'oO inch at the broadest part, 
which is the half nearer the point. The hilt or handle is only three 
inches long, and, like that of Abyssinia, too short for a good grip ; it is 
of brass or other metal, of wood, ribbed or plain, covered with 
shagreen. Sometimes there is a single bar, as in the briquet, to guard 
the hand, and there is usually a brass knob for pommel. The scabbard 
is of black leather, with ferule of brass or white metal at the tip, a 
broad band at the top, and one or two round the centre ; in some 
scabbards almost aU. the leather is concealed. The price varies from 
1 del. 50e. to 2 dels, : the silver-mounted fetch 8 dels. 

t In Gezo's time the troops had mostly "long Danes," or " buccaneer 
guns."— Mr. Duncan, vol. i. p. 240. 



256 A MISSION TO GELELE. 

headmen, said to have been destroyed by Gelele ; and 
they are rarely absent from the royal levees. A Euro- 
pean -would imagine these relics to be treated -with 
mockery ; whereas the contrary is the case. So the 
King Sinmenkpen (Adahoonzou II.), after unwrap- 
ping an enemy's cranium, said to Mr. Norris, " If I 
should fall into hostile hands, I should wish to be 
treated with that decency of which I set the example." 
The first skull was that of Akia'on, chief of Attako 
(Taccow), near " Porto Novo," which was destroyed 
about three years ago. Beautifully white and poHsTied, 
it is mounted in a ship or galley of thin brass about a 
foot long, with two masts, and jibboom, ratthngs, anchor, 
and four portholes on each side, one pair being in the 
raised quarter deck. When King Gezo died his suc- 
cessor received a message from this chief, that all men 
were now truly joyful, that the sea had dried up, and 
that the world had seen the bottom of Dahome. Gelele 
rejoined by slaying him, and by mounting his skull 
in a ship, meaning that there is still water enough to 
float the kingdom, and that if the father is dead the 
son is alive. The second cranium, which also was well 
boiled, and which, like the rest, wanted the lower jaw,* 

* Tlie lower jawbone is coveted as an ornament for umbrellas, sword- 



THE EEOEPTION. 257 

was that of Bakoko of Ishagga. It was crossed at right 
angles by four bars of bright brass ; a thin mask of 
tlie same metal, rudely marked with eyes and unraised 
nose, gave it a monkey-lilce appearance. On the poll, 
and where the bars met, was a brass bowl with a tip 
like a calabash stalk, by which the upper half could be 
raised, to serve as a drinking-cup : this, when viewed 
in front, looked somewhat like a Phrygian cap, or a 
knightly helmet. During Gelele's attack upon Abeo- 
kuta, in 1851, the people of Ishagga behaved with 
consummate treachery, which eleven years afterwards 
was terribly punished by the present ruler. Bakoko 
was put to death, and as a sign that he ought to have 
given water to a friend in affliction, men now drink 
from his recreant head. The third calvaria, also washed, 
was that of Flado, an Abeokutan general, sent to the aid 
of the Ishaggas. Along the ridge crown of the head 
ran a broad leaf in brass, to which was attached a thick 
copper wire and a chain which can raise it from its 
base ; the latter is an imitation in brass of a country- 
trap ; whilst a small white flag and cloth are wound 

handles, and other such purposes. It is taken with horrible cruelty : 
the muscles at each ramus are severed with a knife, and the jaw is 
torn out with the left hand from the yet living victim. 

VOL. I. „ 



258 A MISSION TO GELELE. 

round the stout wire. This showed that Flado fell into 
the pit which he dug for another.* 

Whilst the soldiery of picked women danced and 
sang, the deputation of four Moslems was brought in 
by the Min-gan. The captains who had charge of them 
prostrated themselves upon the clay, not the sand-ringf 
nearer the throne, and shovelled it up by handftils over 
their heads and arms, showing that they were of lower 
rank than the ministers. This is the ceremonial which 
every writer upon Dahoman subjects finds so degrad- 
ing, and with which the traveller meets in almost all 
semi-barbarous societies, especially in negro and negroid 
kingdoms, since the days of Leo Africanus. The Itte 
d'ai, or " lying on ground," is a strictly scriptural pros- 
tration, J and it corresponds with the "shashtanga" of the 

* Gezo had also his three favourite skulls (Mr. Duncan, vol. i. p. 245). 
That traveller, after seeing 2000 to 3000 crania, remarked that " several 
were deficient of any suture across the upper part," in the proportion of 
1 : 12, whilst those without longitudinal division were as 1 : 27. He also 
found the Makhi crania receding from the nasal hone, or lower part of 
the forehead, to the top in a greater angle than those of any other 
country. 

t This loose white sand is brought from Diddo, a water to the north- 
west of Agbome : it is quite as cleanly as the powder and other stuff 
worn by our grandsires. 

J See the cases of David and Abigail falling at his feet (1 Sam. iiv. 
23); Mephibosheth (2 Sam. ix. 6) falls on his face and "does re- 
verence;" Absolom (Ibid. xiv. 33) bows himself on his face to the 



THE EBCEPTION. 259 

Hindus, and with the Chinese "kow-tow." At the court 
of the Cazembe in South-Eastern Africa, and in the 
equatorial kingdom of Uganda, it is practised exactly as 
in Dahome. In the Congo regions, prostration is made, 
the earth is kissed, and dust is strewed over the fore- 
head and arms, before every petty Banza or village 
chief. According to Barbot (1700), the interpreter of 
the " King ' of Zair," probably Boma, vulgarly Em- 
bomma, after rubbing his hands and face in the 
dust, " took one of the royal feet in his hands, spat on 
the sole thereof and licked it with his tongue." It is 
doubtless the origin of "sijdah" amongst Moslems, 
who hold a dusty forehead to be mubarak, or of good 
omen ; and the Shieh heresy rests the prostrated brow 
upon small flat cakes of the earth of Kerbela, much 
renowned for martyrs. The Mahommedans of Senegal 
have also learned to throw sand or earth with both 
hands over their own heads. Ibu Batuta has described 
the wallowing and dusting of the older Nigrotic Courts. 
Jobson remarked the same at Tenda, Clapperton at 
Oyo, and Denham amongst the " Musgows." 

ground before the king ; Bath-sheba (1 Kings i. 16—31) " bowed and did 
obeisance." But Mr. Duncan (vol, i. p. 221) -n^as " much surprised as 
well as disgusted with such absurd abject humiliation." He apparently 
knew more of the bridoon than of the Bible. 

R 2 



262 A MISSION TO GELELE. 

over upon their bellies, or relieve themselves by stand- 
ing " on all fours." When approaching royalty they 
either crawl like snakes, or shuffle forward on their 
knees. During the levee they must raise frequent cries 
of " Ahhosu li akhosu ! " literally, " King all (i.e., of 
all) Kings ! " and " Akhosu te te le ! " — " Small, small 
Kings ! " meaning that before this mighty " Cham " all 
other monarchs are boys. The messengeress, when sum- 
moning a subject to the presence, says, " Se iro we ! " — 
" The Se, or spirit,* requires you ! " When the King 
has spoken, all exclaim " Se do Nugbo ! " — " the spirit 
speaketh true ! " to which some add, " moen de ! " — 
" So it is ! " an historical phrase often preceded by ~ 
" nagboe ! "—" It is true ! " 

From these appearances a stranger, like Dr. M'Leod, 
is apt to conclude that the Dahoman king represents, 
like the Shahanshahs of ancient Persia, a kind of God 
upon earth, and that he can daily act out, whenever he 
is " i' the vein," even with the proudest in his dominions, 
Henry the Fifth's " You are a liar ! " with the speedy 
conclusion, " By my head thou shalt lose thy head ! " 
This is far from being the case, as the more observing 

* For an explanatioa of Se, see Chapter XVII. The King is called a 
spirit, as having power of life and death. 



THE EEOEPTION. 263 

former trarellers well knew* The ministers, f "war 
captains, and fetisheers may be, and often are, indi- 
vidually punished by the King : collectively they are 
too strong for him, and without their cordial co-opera- 
tion he would soon cease to reign. And this apparently 
perfect subjection of the inferior to the superior runs 
through every grade of Dahoman society. The " Fnp- 
pons, or common scoundrel blacks," as the old writer 
calls them, kneel and clap hands before the patrician, 
as if the latter, were their proprietor ; they listen to 
every order with religious attention, and afterwards 
they obey it or not exactly as they please, J Except 
in the case of serfs, slaves, and captives, there is 
throughout Dahome, and I may say Africa, more of 
real hberty and equahty — I will not add fraternity — 
than in any other quarter of the globe, and the presence 
of the servile renders the freemeu only freer and more 
equal. 

* So Captain Philips (1694) justly remarks of the King of Whydah: 
"Though his cappasheirs (oabooeers) show him so much respect, he 
dare not do anything but what they please." 

t Some except the Min-gan and Men, which, however, is not correct. 

X Barbot well hits off this trait. " Though the Whydahs," he 
observes, " tremble with awe at a word from the king, as soon as he 
has turned his batfk they seem to forget their great fear of him ; and 
not much regard his commands, as very well knowing how to appease 
and delude him by their lies." 



264 A MISSION TO GELELE. 

The Moslems of the " Porto Novo " deputation re- 
sembled Bambarra men ; one, however, was fair as an 
Arab. They wore white turbans over tall red caps, 
large broad trousers, and the " Guinea fowl " em- 
broidered robe of Yoruba. Behind them sat their 
band, four co-rehgionists, in white calottes and meaner 
robes. The only instruments were tom-toms. There 
were also a few Kafirs, or pagans, that seemed attached, 
probably as carriers, to the party. These men had 
been sent by the King's brother, of. "Porto Novo," 
about which there was much excitement, to the great 
disfavour of the French Protectorate. 

Whilst the Min-gan who presented these men " made 
obeisance," the Moslems sat gravely on the clay-ground, 
at a distance from the King. Then one of the Alufa,* 
with hands upraised in the prayer position, recited by 
heart long, fluent orisons, concluded, as usual, by draw- 
ing the palms down the face. The introducer, who sat 
with his back to the King, imitated every gesture of 
the visitor. Although the Moslem countenance ex- 

* Alufa, probably a corruption of Arif, is the Egba word for a 
Mullah, a Moslem theologian. Imale in Egba, and Malenun in Ffon, 
both probably corrupted from Muallim, means the common Moslem. Hence 
some of our older authors brought the Malays to Dahome.— See History, 
p. 48, note signed " J. P." 



THE EBCEPTION. 265 

pressed some awe at the apparatus in the palace, it 
well maintained before this heathenry the dignity of the 
Safe Faith. 

Finally the Dakro woman at the foot of the throne 
brought in due form a welcome from the King to 
his brother's envoys. The heathen again powdered 
themselves with dust, and the Moslems bent towards 
the ground. This was a signal to the female attend- 
ants, who, after a startUng clash and clang of cymbals, 
neckbells, and rattles, presented arms a la Bahome, — 
the guns being raised in the air. The mixed company 
of beauties performed sundry dances. Presents and 
drink, in sign of dismissal, were sent to the deputation ; 
the Moslems took the water, the Kafirs two flasks of 
rum, whilst two baskets (=20 heads, or £2) of cowries 
and five baskets of food were served out to the whole 
party. The gift was received by the heathenry crouch- 
ing on the ground, and uttering a curious noise, likest 
to feline purring, whilst the True Believers again prayed 
for the King. The deputation was presently conducted 
.to the palace-gate by their introducers, who bent, as is 
customary when leaving the presence, almost double, 
and went off at a. hurried pace. It was then brought 
back, and the royal presents were placed upon the 



266 A MISSION TO GELELE. 

envoys' heads, only the four turbans being exempt. 
Salutes -were again exchanged, and the Porto Novians 
finally left the Palace Yard. 

The mixed company danced once more, and this 
time it "was joined by a dozen razor women, who, deiiling 
past the King from the she Men's to the Min-gan's side, 
took their stations near the throne. These Nyekple- 
hen-to* seemed the largest and strongest women 
present, and they held their weapons upwards in the 
air like standards, with a menacing air and gesture. 
The blade is about eighteen inches long, and is shaped 
exactly like a European razor ; it closes into a wooden 
handle about two feet in length, and, though kept in 
position by strong springs, it must be, I should think, 
quite as dangerous to the owner as to the enemy. 
These portable guillotines were invented by a brother 
of the late King Gezo, and the terror which they in- 
spire may render them useful. 

At the end of the dance, Ji-bi-whe-ton,t acting 



* Meaning, nyekple (the weapon itself), hen (hold), to (one that does), 
French travellers call them " Les faucheuses." 

t Ji (sky), hi (all), whe (sun), ton (belonging to), i. e., " all the sky 
helongs to the sun." The commanding officeress is Danh-ji-hun-to, 
meaning, the rainbow is the captain or governor of {viz., goes round 
the sky ; that is to say, the King of Dahome rules the (black) trorld. 



THE EEOEPTION. 267 

captainess of the Beauty Company, came forwards 
with the usual affected military swagger, not without a 
suspicion of a dance. She is, or was, a fine tall woman, 
with glittering teeth, and a not unpleasant expression 
when her features are at rest. She addressed a violent 
speech to the male Min-gan, who repeated it aloud to 
the King, with whom it found favour. Ending with 
cutting off the head of an imaginary corpse upon the 
ground, she retired to her command. Presently, for 
the cacoethes loquendi was upon her, she again advanced, 
and spoke with even more gesticulation than before. 
" Thus thej"- would treat Abeokuta ! " The sentiment 
elicited immense applause. 

Followed chorus, solo, and various decapitation 
dancings of the mixed company, the weapons being, 
as usual, grounded, the w^ar-club seized, and the 
shoulder-blades and posteriors being agitated to excess. 
Even the performances of these figurantes, the cream 
of the royal ballet, are not to be admired. They 
stand most ungracefully — the legs, which are somewhat 
slight for the body, being wide apart, and the toes 
certainly turned in and probably up. When the 

Mr. Dnocan's " Dagbyweka," vol. i. p. 231, seems to be a confusioa 
between the two. 



268 A MISSION TO GELELE. 

exercise ended, the razor and chopper women * bran- 
dished their weapons, and all the line advancing, 
" presented " with upraised muskets. 

At the Dahoman Court, curious to say in Africa, 
women take precedence of men; yet, with truly 
Hamitic contradictiousness, the warrioresses say, "We 
are no longer females but males ; " and a soldier dis- 
gracing himself is called, in insult, a woman. It is 
clear, therefore, that they owe their dignity to the 
fiction of being royal wives. Wherever a she-soldiery 
is, celibacy must be one of its rules, or the troops will 
be in a state of chronic functional disorder between the 
ages of fifteen and thirty-five. 

After the Amazons, all the male caboceers, taking 
choppers and pecuUar bill-hook-like blades,t some iron, 
others silver, danced tumultuously before the King, to 

* The chopper is called an^nun (confusion, or badness), w& (doing), 
and hwisn (knife-sword, or dagger) ; meaning, the " cutting badly knife." 
Strangers call it the blue-knife. It is a top-heavy blade four spans 
long, bluff and broadening to one palm at the end like the old Turkish 
falchion, and narrowing to two fingers at the hilt. The form is by no 
means so exaggerated as the wonderful chopping-knives of the Gold 
Coast. Down the centre runs a broad line,' depressed and not polished 
like the back and edge. These knives, being royal gilts, may not be 
bought. 

■j- Many of these end in a circle whose diameter is twice the breadth 
of the blade ; sometimes the surface is worked and pierced like fish- 
slicers. The bill appears to be ornamental, not useful. 



TKB EEOEPTION. 209 

the general song of the women on the right of the 
throne. Even the tottering Men, who leaned upon 
a tomahawk long enough to act as a staff, joined in the 
movement. Presently Gelele sent a message to the 
Gau, declaring that this year Abeokuta must be taken ; 
the tall old man, standing up with a military air, swore 
that it certainly should fall, and the oath was repeated 
by his surly-looking junior the Po-su, 

The King then addressed me through the Meu and 
Mr. Beecham, to the effect that this year Abeokuta must 
be as a mouse before the cat ; he also invited me to 
accompany him to sit behind the army and to see the 
sport. I replied that " Understone " had long ceased 
friendship with the white man. A little pleasantry 
ensued touching it not being our English habit to hang 
back when aught is doing ; and the King taking all in 
excellent part, we stood up bareheaded, and waved 
four salutations. 

Among the remarkabilia of the scene was Adan- 
men-nun-kon,* right-hand Commander of the Blue 

* Among the Dahomans are many mystic names, like Joshua, Isa, 
iind" others. These are mostly of the -Bo-fetish, a war medicine ■which 
prevents wounds (Chap. XI.). The words mean, adan (brave), men 
(man), nun (side, face), kon (upon). The title is explained ia two 
ways. "I am brave upon another man's side," i. e., to take him 



270 A MISSION TO GELBLE. 

Guards, and a fine specimen of " Monsieur Parolles " in 
black. This man of loyal appellation is a tall, lean, 
sooty-faced fellow, with a large, whitish, and big-tas- 
selled night-cap decorating his head, a pink pagne, and 
a baldric adorned with cowries. Eising like a warrior, 
with carbine and tomahawk, he assured me, ia the 
midst of loud screams and violent gesticulatiohs, that 
at 'Gba * even the unborn child must perish ; and he 
strove to look as if he were doing it to death. His 
"brother" Zodome, acting for Chabi, the left-hand 
Commander of the Blues, confirmed the idea. The 
Voice from the Throne added, as is the habit, many 
an illustration of the speeches, concluding with the 
declaration that the Abeokutans must not only be be- 
headed, their bodies must also be cut to pieces. 

There appeared two silver-horned fetish chiefs, of 
the Blue Company, who in the hour of battle personally 

prisoner; or, "however brave nations are, tlie king is the bravest 
of all." 

* This is the Yoruban word Egba ; in Ffon it means " break." In 
Dahome the Egba race, from Lagos to Abeokuta, is called Anago at 
Whydah, and Nago at Agbome. J. P., the annotator of the History, 
says, " Of the Nago countrj' nothing more is known than the name." 
The word has been greatly corrupted by old travellers : it is, however, 
extensively used in Brazil. 

On the other hand, the Nago people call the Ffons, or Dahomans, 
Grunu. 



THE EECEPIION. 271 

attend upon the King. " Awafanfin," which was 
translated to me, " A fetish guide for Abeokuta," drew 
his knife, and declared that with the blade, not with a 
gun, he would attack the cravens who lurked behind 
their walls. The King cordially echoed this ; and added 
that even if in England I should hear of his destructive 
deeds. His right-hand, or superior colleague, a good- 
looking youth, called Hnengada, a " King-Bo-fetish 
name " (interpreted to mean, " When the spindle turns 
cotton, it must become thread"), then stood up. He 
informed me, " The forest tree is strong with root and 
cordage, and is heavy with trunk and branch, whilst 
the wind is thin, and cannot be seen ; but the gale lays 
low the loftiest of the green wood; and Dahome is 
that wind, whilst Abeokuta is that tree." This senti- 
ment was also explained by the King. The speakers 
kissed the ground, and rubbed earth upon their brows : 
then the chorus of captains sang — 

When we go to war we must slay men, 
And so must Abeokuta be destroyed. 

The mixed company Avas now greatly increased by 
women, who had defiled in single line before the throne. 
There were bayoneteeresses, with blue cloth tunics 



272 A MISSION TO GELELE. 

and a white patch on the shoulder, white fillets like 
those of the men, sashes to match supporting their 
swords, and variously-coloured pagnes. The blunder^ 
buss women, who were, like the former, sitting under 
the she Min-gan, distinguished themselves by scarlet 
woollen nightcaps. After they had danced and sung, 
their captainess, Ji-bi-whe-ton, advanced, and said that 
they would fire a salute for their old commander. 
With some difficulty two sides of a square were formed, 
fronting the south and west. The manoeuvres con- 
sisted of an individual sallying out like the Arab 
" Mubariz," delivering her fire, and retiring to the 
ranks. All raised their weapons steadily, with left arms 
extended, and fired from the shoulders, not from the 
liips as the men do to avoid the kick ; they returned 
with a kind of caper, and they did not flinch after 
the fashion of the Dahoman soldiers. The bayonet 
women, after firing, extended a single very gauche 
thrust. The blunderbuss soldieresses grounded the 
butts of their heavy weapons, and discharged them at 
an angle of 45 deg. After several rounds they again 
chanted : 

We like not to hear that Abeokuta lives ; 
But soon we shall see it fall. 



THE EECEPTION. 273 

This was followed by the usual dance and chorus which 
concluded with a " present " of uplifted weapons. 
• When the sun had set, a Dakro brought us direc- 
tions to advance and bid adieu to the King, whilst 
sundry flasks and decanters of 'tafia and other liquors 
were distributed iu token of dismissal. Approaching 
the throne, we made the usual " compliments." Gelele, 
wrapping his robe around him, descended from the 
estrade, donned his sandals, and, attended by his 
umbrella and a large crowd of the Kan-gbo-de's huis- 
siers bearing lights and links, stalked forth towards the 
palace-yard gate, witb a right kingly stride. Every 
inequaUty of ground was smoothed, every stick or 
stone was pointed out, with finger snappings, lest it 
might ofiend the royal toe, and a running accompani- 
ment of "Dadda! Dadda!" (Grandfather! Grand- 
father!) and of "Dedde! Dedde!"* (Softly! Softly!) 
was kept up. Passing out of the gate, we found a 
swarming of negroes, whose hum during the whole audi- 
ence had been heard inside the palace. They buzzed 
about like excited hornets. I know not if the manoeuvi-c 
was done purposely to exaggerate the semblance of a 
multitude, but I can answer that it was a success. 

* De ! here means "softly," as " Bleo " is used on the Gold Coast. 

VOL T 



274 A MISSIOK TO GELELE. 

The King accompanied us to some distance outside 
the palace — a compliment first paid to Commodore 
Wilmot.* His ministers were around him, and the' 
Meu placed in my hands, according to ancient custom,f 
a handful of potsherd bits, showing the number of 
return guns expected at Whydah. Preceded by the 
Yevogan, we inade for the English house. The road 
was crowded with fetish women, marching in full 
dress and single file to a queer song. Arrived at our 
destination, we gave liquor to the whole tail, and we 
were happy when we found ourselves in comparative 
solitude. 

From the above description it is evident that the 
Dahoman possesses, to some extent, the ceremonial 
faculty. On such occasions the pageantry of African 
Courts is to be compared with that of Europe, propor- 
tionately with the national state of progress. But it 
is evidently the result of long and studious practice; 
Everything goes by clockwork ; the most intricate 
etiquette proceeds withoiit halt or mistake ; and it ever 
superadds the elernent Terror, whose absence in civi- 

* King Gezo accompanied Mr. Duncan almost to his dwelling. - 
f In the History (p. 124), Mr. Norris, after being saluted, was shown 
fifteen pebbles in a small calabash, which he "recollected was the 
number of guns that were lired on the preceding evening." 



THE RECEPTION. 275 

Used countries often converts ceremonial to a some- 
thing silly. As, however, the reader has been warned, 
he has seen the best. The outside displays are 
■wretched. Misery mixes with magnificence, ragged 
beggars and naked boys jostle jewelled chiefs and 
velvet-clad Amazons ; whilst the real negro grotesque- 
ness, like bad perspective, injures the whole picture. 



T 2 



CHAPTER X. 

THE MAKCH TO AGBOME. 

The King was detained at Kana, as we were after- 
wards informed, by sundry cases affecting human life. 
Not less than 150 " Amazons " were found to be preg- 
nant — so difl&cult is chastity in the Tropics. They 
confessed, and they were brought to trial with their 
paramours.* The King has abolished the "Brehon 
judges " established by his father : the malversation of 
these "justices in eyre" rendered reference to them 
like " going," as the old traveller has it, " to the Devil 
for redress." He now investigates each case personally, 
often sitting in judgment till midnight, and rising 
before dawn on the next day ; moreover, every crimi- 
nal has a right of personal appeal to him.t The crime 

* We read that in the reign of Sinmenkpen (Adahoonzou^ II.), a 
female conspiracy in the palace caused the §ale of 150 men from the 
villages near Eana, for dishonouring the Eing. Their innocence was 
not discovered till too late. 

t Mr. Duncan was present at two of these appeals (vol, i. p. 259). 



THE MAECH TO AGBOME. 277 

was lese-maJestS rather than simple advowtry ; all 
the soldieresses being, I have said, royal wives. Eight 
men were condemned to death, and will probably be 
executed at the Customs. The majority were punished 
either by imprisonment or by a banishment to distant 
villages, under pain of death if they revisit the capital, 
and some were pardoned.* The partners of their guilt 
Tvere similarly treated. Female criminals are executed 
by officers of their own sex, within the palace walls, 
not in the presence of men. Dahome is therefore in 
one point more civiUsed than Great Britain, where they 
still, wondrous to relate, "hang away" even women, 
and in public. 

In the afternoon of Sunday, December 20th, we 
effected a departure from the English house. Sundry 
boxes were left behind, owing to the desertion of the 
carriers, who are fast learning bad habits : yesterday 
they stole an enamelled iron cup. The Court being at 

* This leniency and amenity of discipline form a curious ooatrast 
with the horribly barbarous punishments which, according to Bosman 
and Barhot followed such an offence two and a half centuries ago. In 1845 
Mr. Duncan was informed that the victims at the Kana sacrifice " had 
been guilty of adulterous intercourse with one of the King's wives, 
in consequence of which they were sentenced to be put to death by 
heing beaten with clubs, and after death mutilated" (vol. i. p. 220). 
The object of the mutilation is here, I believe, wrongly stated. 



278 A MISSION TO GELBLE. 

Kana, bell- women were a nuisance on the road; at 
every five minutes the hammock-men huddled us into 
the bush. Arrived at the Akoreha, or eastern market- 
place, we sat down near the Buko-no's house, awaiting 
his escort. Here fetish women crowded upon us, 
clapping palms for a present. They were easily dis- 
persed by their Hkenesses being sketched. 

Ah-eady the sun began to cool,* though the sky was 
still aU ablaze with golden glory. After half an hour's 
delay, the old Buko-no came up, leaning on the Bo- 
kpOjt or crutch staff, which wards ofi" the evils of the 
way. Presently we remounted hammocks, and he, by 
means of a chair, cUmbed upon the back of his Httle 
bidet — a mare followed by a foal. The animals here 
are not larger than Shetland ponies, but they are gene- 
rally, as is the Maharattarland "tattoo," shaped Uke 
stunted horses, showing the remains of good blood. 
They have fine noses, well-opened eyes, and sharp ears. 
As in Yoruba generally, the tits are excessively vicious. 



* Mr. Duncan twice asserts (vol. ii. pp. 260, 288), that "it is a 
oastom in Dahomey for all strangers of note yisiting that capital to 
arriye and depart as nearly as possible when the sun is at its meridian." 
The practice is now obsolete. 

+ Literally a Bo-staff. It is known by a Utle petticoat called "Ato," 
or cloth, bound on below the cratch, and concealing the medicine. 



THE MAECH TO AGBOME. 2'79 

and if approached by a stranger, they will fly at him 
with a scream. This is doubtless owing to the bru- 
tality of their negro grooms. They are, when mounted, 
invariably led, hke donkeys, by a halter — the bridle, 
like the stirrup, being unknown. The little jades are 
almost hid in the local saddle, enormous housings of 
blue cloth, padded, quilted, and worked outside with 
white thread, while huge curtain tassels depend to their 
knees. As a rule, the rider is lifted on and off by his 
slaves. Whilst on horseback he passes his arm round 
the neck of a man walking by his side, and his waist is 
supported by the same attendant's near arm.'''" 

The Buko-no was habited in the usual " Chokoto" or 
little drawers, with a long shirt about his body, and a 
blaek-ribboned Panama hat. His escort of thirty-three 
retainers was that of a Dahoman noble on a journey, 
and the common people on the road knelt and clapped 
palms as he passed. He was preceded by nine 
musketeers, who danced and sang the whole way with 
unwearied energy. His-fetish stick was carried before 
him in a calico itui by a man in a long white cap like 



*"So Ei]^ Gezo told off two attendants to hold Mr. Duncan, the 
Liteguardsman, on Ms horse, and was much surprised by a trot and a 
gallop. 



280 A MISSION TO GELELE. 

the extinguisher-shaped nightgear of our ancestors. 
The Buko-no rode under the shade of a large white 
umbrella, and was closely followed by his axe man, who 
gave orders as one having authority. The train was 
brought up by the band, chiefly boys, with three 
drums, a couple of tom-toms, two single cymbals, and a 
pair of gourd rattles : they kept up a loud horrid noise 
throughout the march. About a dozen carriers were 
scattered about the cortege bearing a pipe and tobacco 
bag, a Gold Coast chair, a footstool and calabashes, and 
bundles of clothes and matting. 

From Kana to Agbome all is historic ground, and 
the land is emphatically the garden of Dahome, 
showing a wondrous soft and pleasant aspect. The 
soil is sandy, with the usual pebbles overlying red and 
yellow clays, and where grass is not, the surface is a 
succession of palm orchards and grain fields belonging 
to the King and his ministers. Many of the trees are 
pollarded as in Teneriffe, by removing the tops and 
branches to thicken the shade ; these are mostly 
observed round the firequent villages that stud the fair 
champaign. The road, six or seven miles long, 
separating the two capitals may compare with the 
broadest in England, and although to the eye it spans 



THE MAECH TO AGBOME. 281 

a plain, there is an imperceptible rise of about 694 feet, 
■ffhich extricates us from lowland Africa. For the 
convenience of the royal carriages it is carefully kept 
clear of grass, which would obliterate it in two months, 
yet the Africans, accustomed to nothing but Indian file, 
wear single paths in it like sheep tracks. It is a study 
of the national character to see each following his 
neighbour in goose line down a road upon which four 
coaches could be driven abreast.* 

After a few yards we dismounted at a spot where 
a log placed transversely on the ground showed us the 
Kana 'gbo-nun.f or Kana Gate. It had the usual 
surroundings of fetish sheds and spaces cleared for 
worship, and all the natives when stepping over it 



* In the " African Times," an ignoble sheet, which, I should hardly 
say "by permission," constitutes itself the organ of the African Aid 
Society of London, there has appeared for many an issue an advertise- 
ment headed " Aguapem Mountain Eoad," and sending round the hat 
in the usual style. This is no bad way to coax the British gold out of 
the British breeches-pocket. But beyond that nothing. Such a road, 
once made, would be buried in vegetation after a few months, unless 
kept clear at a great expense. Secondly, like that of Kana, it would 
be cut up into paths : the negro has no shoes, consequently he must 
tread, despite all our endeavours, on a place softened by those who 
precede him. 

t Agbo (town-gate, or enceinte with wall and ditch), and nun (side, 
or mouth). A house-gate is called hon-to, from hon (a door), and if 
large, hon-to'gbo (big gate). 



282 A. MISSION TO GELELE. 

removed their caps. The next names were " Pakhi,'' so 
called from an ancient chieftain slain by King Dako and 
"Ekpwento" a "Bo" name — both holy places, with 
barriers of the Thunder Fetish shrub stretching nearly 
across the road. After half an hour we passed on the 
left Legba 'si-gon, "'■ a clearing with many dwarf thatches 
where the Legba-priest comes forth and prays for the 
King and for the largesse of white visitors. A few 
yards further, and to the right of the road, was a 
compound, showing only the tops of conical huts ; this 
is the Bweme, or country palace of the Agasun-no,t 
here the Archbishop of Canterbury, who ranlcs at 
Agbome next to the King. Rapidly we passed the 
following interesting sites : — Brii-vodun, the fetish of 
the "Bru" (blue) or Enghsh Company; Arima, a fetish 
of the same corps ; Aizan 'li, the road of Aizan,J a holy 
place for the 'Mman or Gezo's Mad Company ; Bagidi- 
Samun, so called from an old king of Adan-we ; the 
Adan-gbno-ten,§ where the King halts, when going from 



* Legba (the Dalioman Priapus), si for asi (a wife, i. e,, a votary), 
and gon. (a place). 

+ For an explanation of Agasun, see Chapter XVII. Ifo is " mother," 
the use of which word has been before noticed. 

t For an explanation of Aizan, see Chapter XVII, 

§ Adan (brave), gbno (swear), ten (place). Others pronounce the 



THE MAEOH TO AGBOME. 283 

Agbome to Kana ; and the Arrekete Loko 'li, or road of 
Avrekete * Loko tree. They are clean spaces, adorned 
with pots, sticks, flags, and tents : many of them have 
circlets of the Thunder Fetish shrub often surrounding 
a taller tree, and the latter is usually a giant Bombax, 
with the Azan or fetish-fringe round the trunk.f 

About an hour of slow marching brought us to the 
Adan-we Palace.J It lies on the right of the road, a 
heap of matting half buried in trees. According to 
the people it -was built by Tegbwesun (1727-1774) 
and the King still sleeps here when he leaves Agbome 
ia the evening for Kana. Around it, but especially to 
the north, is the cradle of the Dahoman empire, the 
classic Uhwawe, corrupted into Dawhee by Mr. Norris, 
who calls it "the ancient residence of the reigning 
family, and the capital of their little territory before 
they emerged from their original obscurity." § The 
" Awawe people," though long subjects of the empire, 
still preserve, hke the Agoni and others, their old name. 

word Adan-Uon-Eoten, and explain it, Adan (brave), blon (swear), and 
noten (stop). 

* For an explanation of Avrekete, see Chapter XVII. 

t For an explanation of this term, see Chapter IV. 

I Said to mean Adan (brave), and we (white). Mr. Duncan (vol. i. 
p. 216) calls it " Adawie, three miles and a half from Canamina." 

§ See also Chapter V. 



284 A MISSION TO GELELE. 

Opposite the Adan-we is Addein, a village also con- 
quered by the first Dahoman king, Dako. Then came 
the Akwe-janahan,* the market of these two settle- 
ments, where a few women were sitting at sale ; it is 
said to be the half-way place. 

The road now was bordered with the Locust that 
affords the Afiti sauce, by the Egbas called Ogiri. It is 
a tall irregular tree, with a leaf like a young fern ; the 
fruit dangles to a long cord, and when ripe it is scarlet- 
red, and about the size of a billiard ball. Presently 
the soft external substance falls oW, lea,ving the core, 
a green sphere not larger than a musket bullet, and from 
it sprout long bright green pods curiously twisted. 
When ripe the seeds are fermented to a mass strong as 
assafcetida, and form in palaver sauce a favourite 
ingredient, which however the stranger "will not 
rehsh before some time. It is the " wild tamarind " of 
Mr. Dalzel, and in the landscape it forms a most 
effective feature. 

Followed in rapid succession on both sides of the 
path the fetish clearings of Daji, a princely worship, 
G^-sfi,-uhun f and Logun-aizan 'li, a Bo-name given by 

* Akwe (cowries), janahan (if you have not got soil,, you can buy 
nothing). 

•f Ga (bow), sa (throwing), uhun (bombax tree). 



THE MAEOH TO AGBOME. 285 

King Gezo. The next was a mud-house and a farm 
belonging to royalty : it is called Nyakho-gon, the 
place of Nyakho, the ruling chief, who was captured and 
slam by Dako. Another sacred place, Vodun-no Deme, 
a Fetish of the Fanti company of Amazons, led to a 
bifurcation of the road. The left branch is a short 
cut to the Jegbe Palace, of which more afterwards. 
Close to the junction are the little hut villages of 
Attako and Ishagga, named after the conquests of the 
present reign : when the King breaks a town he builds 
another, and is supposed to place there the poof rem- 
nants of his captives. A little beyond and in the road 
is the Ugo 'li :* here is the celebrated shea butter-tree, 
alluded to by every traveller, and apparently the only 
fruitful Bassia in the country. It is short trunked, 
twelve to fifteen feet hi^, thick branched, and mango- 
shaped, with a tender green leaf, at first of a dark 
colour, then waxing yellow and afibrding a dense shade, 
in which a small market is held. It is now flowering, 
and it will bear fruit in the rains. Then came a clear 

L 

' Ugo (shea butter-tree), 'li (for ali, a road). According to Mr. 
Duncan (vol, i. p. 285) this valuable tree was destroyed throughout 
the land at the suggestion of the Spanish and Portuguese slavers — 
which is incredible. He well describes the fruit and its various medi- 
dicinal uses. 



286 A MISSION TO GELELE. 

space on the left of the Voad, called Van-van from a 
Nago town conquered bj Gezo. A "joji"* or tall 
gallows of thin poles, with the Azan fetish fringe to 
prevent the passage of calamity, then halted us : a 
"wisp of grass was handed to each of us, and we were 
desired to throw it away to the fetish ; whom may 
Allah blight ! The land around is called Leflefun,f 
from the Nago people, whose chief, Chade, was slain by 
King Gezo, and who wore finally settled here. The 
eye dwells with delight upon the numerous country 
villages, like the 115 towns of the tribe of Judah, and 
upon the thin forest of palms rising from the tapestry of 
herbage, here waving, there cut short, which combine to 
make this spot the Fridaus or Paradise of Dahome- 
land. 

Presently we arrived at another terminus or bifurca- 
tion, the left path leading to the houses of the Matro 
and the Adanejan, the Komasi Palace, and the Uhun- 
jro market. The next notable place was the Patin-'li, 
where the now grassy road widens out, and shows two 
ragged lines of figs, calabashes, locusts, and oil palm 
trees. This is also an Adan-gbno-ten or swearingr- 

* Jo (wind), ji (upon). 

+ The Leffle-foo of Commander Forbes (vol. i. p. 68). 



THE MAECII TO AGBOME. 287 

place, wliere the King halts before entering Agbome 
from Kana, to receive the oaths of fidelity, and to hear 
the brave talk of his high officials, especially the 
military. A heap of ashes,* the usual sign of entering 
a great fetish place, points to a white village of 
Bo-hwe, tabernacles,! or fetish hovels, under huge 
cotton woods, beginning at about 350 yards from the 
town gate. The guardian or Janus is Bo, who is Legba 
on a larger scale. The nearest fetish huts are six in 
number, and are disposed across the road ; a neat 
compound for spiritual meetings rising from the grass 
on the right hand. The hovels contained effigies of 
chamelions, speckled white and red; horses known 
only by their halters ; squatting men, like Day and 
Night at masquerades, half mud-coloured and half 
spotted; others brown ^11 over, and grinning with 
cowrie-teeth ; and the largest a huge chalked gorilla, 
intended to be human, and completely disgusting. 
Beymd it, io the right of the path, was a single 
swish room, a fetish place, where the King sits before 
entering his capital ; around it cluster dwarf thatches 
sheltering attempts at leopards, and other holy beasts. 

* Called Afitt (ashes), zuru (heap), ji (upon), 
t Levit. xxiii, 40. 



288 ■ A MISSION TO GELELE. 

Near the city gate is another village of fetish hovels, 
where a trivia leads on the right to the Yevogan's 
hereditary hamlets, straight in front to the capital, and 
by the left to the Jegbe, the present ruler's country 
palace. 

We are now at the Dosum-wen Agbo-nun,* the 
feature which gives its name to Agbome, the capital. 
The word signifying the " town within the enceinte," or 
" precincts ;" and it has the anomaly of being, and pro- 
bably of ever having been, with gateways and without 
walls. The Agbo is a mud screen of five steps or 
courses, like the palace enceintes, fifteen to eighteen 
feet high, and about 100 yards long. It is pierced with 
two wedge-shaped gaps ; that to the right, as you front 
it, is open for the public ; the other, and the larger, on 
the left, is reserved for the ruler. The latter is perma- 
nently blocked up with a stout hurdle, six feet high ; the 
former is closed every night by a pair of similar fences, 
tied to stout side-posts. Before the wall is a shallow 
moat, well worn by human feet. Being pool-fronted 
during the rains each more important gate is entered 

* Meaning the town-gate of Dosum-wen, the name of the keeper. It 
is called by Europeans the Kana gate. I have already explained the 
meaning of Agbo-nun, Dr. M'Leod (p. 95), translates Abomey, by " L<it 
me alone.' (!) 



THE MAECH TO AGBOMB. 289 

by a clay mound or by two solid beams, overlaid with 
rough planks, forming a bridge. Beyond the pas- 
sage, at the ends, the moat is dense grown with trees, 
especially with the thick and thorny acacia bush — in 
these lands one of the best defences, — and it is prolonged 
round the capital. It is never cleared. The outside 
grass is removed, lest in burning the stubbles the Zun * 
inight catch fire. There are tunnels through the acacia 
bush where people may go to gather leaves and plants 
for simples : none of the lieges, however, are permitted, 
under pain of severe palaver, to cross the ditch except 
by the established entrances. There is a superstition 
touching these bridges. In former reigns, if any sub- 
ject happened to fall when treading one of them he 
lost his head, even as in olden times happened to a 
dancer so committing himself or herself before the 
King.f 

Arrived at the Kana gate we descended from our 
hammocks, whilst all our attendants bared their 
shoulders, removed their hats, and furled our umbrellas, 

In all Yoruba towns tlie bush adjoining villages and towns is 
spared for defence and sbelter: at Abeokuta it is called " abu-si," and 
here " zun." 

t See Dr. M'Leod (p. 59). Mr. Duncan (vol. ii. p. 289), being lame, 
was permitted by the fetishman, on the King's order, to ride through the 
gate, " at which every man seemed much amazed." 

TOl. I. 



290 A MISSION TO GELELE. 

as if it were part of the King's palace. Passing in, we 
found on the ground, at each side of the gate, a small 
black figure called a Bo-chio. A httle higher up, and 
let into the clay of the gap-side, is a human skull,* 
with thigh bones and other amulets hanging about. 
Inside there are two guard-houses, leading to the 
Agbonun-'khi, or " gate market," one of the rude little 
bazaars scattered about the town. Beyond it, and 
placed to defend the entrance, are the remains of a 
broken-down battery. On the ground, to the right of 
the road, lie thirty-six, on the left thirty-five old guns, 
with their touch-holes rivalling their muzzles, and with 
trunnions in many cases knocked off, showing the in- 
solent security of the place, and giving it already the 
aspect of a ruin. Behind the right-hand battery is the 
residence of the Gau, behind the left that of the Po-su ; 
so, in the city of Great Benin, the " Captain of War's " 
establishment is at the entrance. Both are the usual 
masses of huts, enclosed in the normal clay wall. The 
estabhshment of the Commander-in-Chief is called Gau- 
sra-men ;t it is backed by " Gau-hwe-gudo," an open 

* Skulls are also nailed to doors, in token of respect for some dead 
enemy. 

t Sra means the slayes' quarters, near the master's house. 



THE MARCH XO AGBOME. 291 

space of grass and dwarf corn plants, and that quarter 
of the town is still known as Agbo-kho-nun,* the site 
of the old gate which Agaja the Great removed to its 
present position. It is evident, at the first glance, that 
Agbome is built less closely than Whydah ; and that 
the open spaces and gardens, even in the thickest part 
of the town, have greatly the better of the houses. 

The blacksmith's quarter, a field dotted with open 
hovels, leads to the large enceinte of the old Meu : it 
contains a prison for minor offenders, and the walls are 
defended by a chevaux de frise of sharpened sticks. 
We then arrived at an open space with a few trees to 
the eastward of the "mighty carcase," called the 
Agbome Palace. The place was bounded on the north 
by the usual entrance to a Dahoman royal abode, a 
huge bani-like shed, built by Agaja, the fourth king, 
and called " Agrin-go-men" — "In Agrin's Quiver."! 
On the west is the Ji-hwe, or Lofty Abode, by strangers 
called the Cowrie-house. It is a two-storied barn 

* Agljo (the enceinte), kto (old), and nun (side, or mouth). 

t Others say hy Aho (Adahoonzou I.) the second king. It is related 
that Tvhen he importuned for more land Agrin, a petty chief of the 
place, the latter exclaimed, " Wouldst thou build in Agrin's quiver ?" 
He was duly slain, and the gate was erected according to his words. 
The etymon is too like that of " Dahome " (Chapter Y.) not to excite 
our suspicions. 

u 2 



292 A MISSION TO GELELE. 

under a heavy thatch. The red- clay walls are split 
from top to foot, and almost all of the thirty-eight 
windows, or rather holes, in the frontage sides, and 
four in the short ends, are shored up with sticks. Long 
lines of cowries are suspended from the windows during 
the Customs, to astonish the weak minds of the lieges, 
and these " bawbees " are afterwards removed. 

Having learned my ceremonial by heart, I positively 
refused to dismount at this place, and I found after- 
wards that it was a mere impertinence on the part of 
the Buko-no. We passed along the southern wall of the 
Agbome Palace, our direction being from N.E. to S.W. 
On the summit were a few rusty iron skull-holders, an 
jupright spike to pass through the cranium, with a ring 
-as handle, and in the lower part a thin crescent-shaped 
bar for the base of the head to rest upon. There was 
only one human relic, a great alteration since the days 
of Sinmenkpen (Adahoonzou II.), who, though six 
slavers were awaiting their loads at Whydah, excited 
the admiration of his subjects by taking off 147 heads 
io complete the " thatching of his house." * The 



* Aceording to the Historj-, the war-order of the King to his Gau 
was to " thatch his house," and in those days human skulls were placed 
on the roofs of the sheds at the palace doors. None of the natives knew 



THE MARCH TO AGBOME. 293 

custom is evidently dying out, and Agbome will soon 
ignore what the Persians would call her " kalleh- 
munar." * 

After passing a huge unrepaired rent in the Palace 
walls, whose miserable tattered aspect was an emblem of 
the decaying Empire, and after hastening from its dirty 
drains, mere holes with a bright shrub springing from a 
foul pool, we came to a second barn-like shed. It is 
called the Agwaji Gate, and was built by King Tegbwe- 
sun (Bossa Ahadi). Turning an angle we debouched 
upon the palm leaf fence, denoting the new gate of 
the present king, which, according to custom, he is 
expected to complete. Near it is another large shed, 
known as Agrin-masogbe. 

We then reached the Grande Place of Agbome, the 
scene of Gezo's displays and receptions, but neglected 
by the present king. The aspect reminded me of the 
History's description, "An assemblage of farmyards 
with long thatched barns." Of these there were 
about a dozen, large and small, intended to shelter the 

the phrase, which is perhaps obsolete. The Komasi Palace, built by 
Gezo, is quite free from this manner of ornamentation. 

A skull minaret. After a massacre, the heads were built up with 
lime into a kind of tower, the Oriental modification of our cotemporary 
hanging in chains. 



294 A MISSION TO GELELE. 

soldiery. As usual, a few shady trees, chiefly the 
thick-leaved ficus, relieved the baldness of the view. 
On the N.E. side, springing from the enceinte, was the 
Singbo, or two-storied house built by King Gezo, and 
his favourite place of residence. Covered with a pent- 
roof thatch, the walls were of clay, whose redness 
blushed through the thin coat of chalk acting white- 
wash, and the front was pierced for eight windows with 
large shutters of pale-green, and small wickets. The 
doorway was un-Buropean, a dwarf barn of Dahoman 
fashion, and we found there three umbrellas, white, blue, 
and pink, the former belonging to the Governor of the 
Palace. 

This dignitary is an old servant of Gezo, once the 
kan-gbo-de, or King's store-keeper, but degraded, as has 
been said, for presuming to ride up to the royal gate. 
He is now known as Kpon-ne-mi — " l^ook for me ! " 
According to custom we dismounted before this palace. 
The fat old man, in brass bracelets and pink checked 
cloth, prostrated himself in front of the gate, whilst we 
stood and bowed to it. He then snapped fingers, and 
returning to the half-opened door, whispered in con- 
sultation with some of the female inmates. Presently 
he returned with the formula, " That the King's wife. 



THE MAEOH TO AGBOME. 295 

having inquired about every one in England, desired 
us to go and eat, after which we should have her 
message." 

Leaving the Singbo, we passed on the right another 
huge barn entrance to the enceinte, supported by four- 
teen mud pillars, and called ^dan-jro-'ko de.* It 
shelters the two howitzers presented to the late Gezo 
by the French Government ; they are not better treated 
than the English presents at Abeokuta. Under a tree 
in the square-centre is a curious relic of the past — a 
fine brass gun, gone in the touch-hole, and bearing as 
inscription, " Dordrect, 1640 — Coenraet Wegewaert me 
fecit." It is therefore almost coeval with the Dahoman 
kingdom. 

The broad road on the south of the Agbome palace 
was now lined with gazers, and the Court being at 
Kana we did not suffer from the bell-women, the 
peculiar plague of the place. Advancing, we turned 
another abrupt angle, and facing west, passed on the 
left the roomy and comparatively comfortable house of 
Prince Chyudaton, where the luckier French lodge. A 

* Adan (brave), jro (likes), ako (family, tribe), de (any one). Mean- 
ing, if any people be brave and like (to figbt, let them come and take 
Dahome). Commander JForbes spoils all this fine sentiment in his 
"DangehlaCordah." 



296 A MISSION TO GELELE. 

few doors further placed us at the Buko-no's estabhsh- 
ment — cow-houses, ultra-Arcadian in their simplicity — 
of which the first sight was enough. These people so 
dearly love domesticity that they make their houses 
prisons to all inside, where there is no possibility of 
privacy. From within you see only tall red walls, with 
perhaps a few tree tops, and thatch roofs above and 
beyond it, making the saddest impression upon a lover 
of liberty. On the other hand, every word uttered can 
be heard throughout the building, thus securing, as in a 
ship, the two greatest and opposite undesirables. It is 
evident that the King, unlike him of Ashanti, does not 
visit the strangers' quarters and drink palm-wine with 
them.* 

The establishment lies to the west of the Agbome 
palace, insulated as usual, and the parallelogram of 
about 300 ft. each way is not quite square with the 
cardinal points, our principal room fronting E. S. East. 
The enceinte is bisected by a high wall with a single 
door, which is carefully closed at night. Our landlord 
and his many wives are to the eastward of us; we 
could hear the laughter of these merry dames, but only 

* Nor is it at present "etiquette" for the King of Dahome to yisit 
even Lis highest officers. 



THE MARCH TO AGBOME. 297 

one old specimen ever leaves the house by that door. 
We occupy the western half, lately vacated by Sedozau, 
a son of the King, and the first item of two sets of 
twins presented to royalty by the she-Yevogan, who 
thus took the initiative in making him a father. We 
entered by a southern gateway with the customary 
thatch : in aftertimes the King's Dr. Dee was ever 
hangiag it with his superstitious frippery. The door 
was a screen of bamboo fronds with native hinges, a 
pole working in wooden cups. This entrance led into 
a kind of outer court, containing only a shed for the 
hammock-men, who left it uncleaned for two months. 
An opposite doorway opened upon the backyard, a 
mixture of filth and fetish of which more presently. 
Another adit through a wall to the right led to our 
private quarters : it had fortunately a stput M'ooden 
planking, which we closed when privacy was desirable. 

Our lodging was a barn 45 feet long, by 27 feet 
deep. A thick thatch, like the East Indian chappar, 
descended within 4*50 feet of the ground, and rested 
on a double line of strong posts buried in the earth. 
The north-eastern angle of the roof formed a kind of 
false gable, or single paviUon wing like the Kobbi of 
Abeokuta, here called " kho-zwe," or house-corner. The 



298 A MISSION TO GELELE, 

verandah had an earth-step, some eight inches high, to 
keep out the rain, with a descent to the floor of tamped 
earth. The low ceiling was of rough sticks, plastered, 
like the walls, with native white-wash. 

After the verandah we entered the " hall," an apart- 
ment 20 feet by 10. On the left was an earthen 
estrade, about thirty inches high, a sleeping platform for 
domestic servants. In front was a small dark -room, 
hot to the last degree, as are all places in this country 
where the wind cannot penetrate. I at once knocked 
a window through the back wall of clay, which was two 
feet thick, provided it with a shutter made out of a 
claret case, and turned it into a tolerable study. At- 
tached to it was a dark and windowless store-room, 
whence the " drivers " sallied out once a week ; having, 
however, a door, a lock, and a key, it saved us many a 
gallon of rum and bag of cowries. On the right of the 
hall and study were two small dark rooms, and, lastly, 
an open verandah occupied the whole depth of the 
house under the false gable ; it had in one corner a 
raised earth-rim for a balneary, and a drain to draw off 
the water. Opposite this verandah a strip of courtyard 
was divided by a jealous party wall from the Buko-no's 
quarters. 



THE MARCH TO AGBOME. 299 

The front court, facing to the E.S.Bast, commanded 
a view of the top of a pollarded calabash, and a blasted 
tree upon which the early vultures prospected for 
carrion. The back yard* contained sundry heaps of 
offal, the " cook-houses," and the lares of the young 
prince, who had been given by his father to the 
Buko-no, with the object of learning medicine, and 
perhaps of preventing poison. I must describe them 
at some length to show the intricate practical worship 
of this people. Shortly after ray arrival, hearing my 
ulUiU for curiosities, even under sacrilegious circum- 
stances, two fetish youths made their appearance in 
tlie evening, knelt down before the domestic altar, 
prayed, broke some of the images, and went away 
declaring that they had called out the fetish, and that 
I {night, after this evocatio deorum, do my worst. 
Similarly we removed all the fetish from the lodging- 
house, and the Buko-no only laughed — this was en 
regie: of course we could not have turned it out 
of his. 

The roof of the Bo-kho, Bo-temple, or Lararium, had 
been allowed to fall, exposing the worshipful inmates 
to every weather. There were two sets of grotesque 

* Here called " Kho-gndu," the " Ipaka " of the Egbas. 



300 A MISSION TO GELELE. 

figures ranged in a row opposite one another. That to 
the south numbered six. 1. A bit of iron-stone clay 
stuck round with feathers, and planted on a swish clay 
step a couple of inches high. 2. A little Bo-doll, in a 
cullender or perforated pot. 3. An earthenware basin 
with a circular base, surrounded with the Azan or 
fetish palm-girdle, and the Asen (Sein 1), or Twin-iron* 
stuck in the ground before it. 4. A Nlon-gbo, or 
Sheep fetish, very easily confounded with — 5. An Avun, 
or canine, provided with any number of claws. Finally, 
No. 6 was an awful looking human face in alto-relief, flat 
upon its base, a swish square, with a short stake planted 
behind it, three small earthen pots rising from its 
wrinkled forehead ; its huge gape of cowrie teeth, and 
eyes of the same, set in red clay, were right well 
calculated to frighten away, as it is intended to do, 
witchcraft from the devotee. 

The other set occupied three sides of the dwarf roof- 
less hut ruin, and embraced everything necessary for 
man's welfare. A red clay kpakpa, or duck,f with a line 

* It is formed of two iron cones, cymbal-shaped, and very like the 
e^ctingoisher of a candle, fastened to a single stem six inches long. It 
is generally planted in a lump of clay behind the Hoho pots, which will 
presently be explained, and thus forms a domestic altar. 

+ Clearly an onomatopoetio word, like our " Quack." 



THE MAEOH TO AGBOME. 301 

of feathers round its neck, and an artificial tail, if duly 
adored, makes the prayerful strong. A Bo male image, 
half black half white, even to the wool, and hung with a 
necklace of beasts' skulls ; with a pair of Hoho-zen, or 
twin pots, two little double pipkins of red clay, big pipe- 
bowls, united hke the Siamese twins, and covered with 
white-washed lids to guard the water offering, would 
J)rotect Sedozau and his brother from the ills to which 
twin-flesh is heir. There was also a So-hwe, or " stick 
beat," a wooden stump eighteen inches high and eight 
inches in diameter, wrapped in old palm-leaf and dirty 
calico, with a string of cowries hanging from its sooty 
summit, and an Achatina shell on the higher of the two 
dwarf steps forming its base. If a stone be struck upon 
the top of this invaluable article the enemy certainly 
sickens and dies. Defence against disease was secured 
by a clay parallelogram, puddinged half with cowries and 
half with pottery-bits stuck edgeways, and supporting 
an Asen-iron and an Asiovi or fetish axe ; by a red clay 
Bo-man with a beard of poultry feathers and the left 
side stuck with fragments of earthenware ; and by a 
Bo-pot containing a heap of black earth rising to a ball, 
and supporting a fetish iron. Proper respect for the 
rainbow was shown by the presence of its favourite 



302 A MISSION TO GELELE. 

ceramic,* containing a clay snake, with two small red 
feathers for horns. Finally, there was a pair of 
"Iro" or philters, which, rubbed on after the bath, 
obtain from man loan of moneys, from woman the don 
d'amoureuse merci : the one was a pot, the other a cala- 
bash, full of filthy-looking grease, capped by the skulls 
of a dog and of some other animal, one to each. 

For the distances and other peculiarities of the road 
between Whydah and Agbome, the reader is referred 
to Appendix I. It may be observed that the length 
of the journey has shrunk, with wonderful regularity, to 
the present year. Mr. Lamb (1724) gives 200 miles 
from the port to the capital; Mr. Norris (1772), 
112 miles ; Mr. Dalzel (1793), 96 miles; Commander 
Forbes (1849), 90 miles; Commodore Wilmot (1863), 
65 miles ; the general opinion being 75 miles.f I found 
(1864), by meridional observations of Sirius, a direct 
distance of 51^ geographical miles between the beach- 
town Whydah and the Enghsh house, whilst my sketch 
map gave 62 to 63 indirect miles. 

* For a more detailed notice of these pots — each deity has its own — 
the curious reader will consult Chapter XVII. 

+ M. Borghero (1861) made 160 indirect kilometres to Kana, hut he 
passed round the longer Toffo road. M. Jules Gerard (1863) reckoned 
fifty indirect English statute miles from Whydah to Kana. 



CHAPTER XL 

THE KING ENTERS HIS CAPITAL. 

OuE arrival at the unpleasant domicile which was to 
be our home for nearly two months, was a signal for 
the Buko-no Uro to begin operations.* This belle tete de 
mort craved an audience, and, after the customary 
" ambages," requested me to open before him the four 
boxes of presents forwarded by Her Majesty's Govern- 
ment. His object was to secure the first news for the 
royal ears, hoping thereby — excuse the phrase — to 
curry a little favour. The boxes had beeii stored in 
bis own magazine ; however, I of course refused to 
touch them, except inside the palace, and I told him to 
meddle with them at his peril. He pleaded usage, and 
the custom of the country. I rejoined that it was a 
false plea, the present being the first mission from Her 
Majesty's Government to the King, consequently that 

* The second is a Bo name, telonging to his father. 



30-1 A MISSION TO GELELE. 

there could be no precedent. Hoping, however, thereby 
to exert some influence in the matter of human sacri- 
fice, I read out my " Message," as instructions are 
locally called, and regretted to receive only the ste- 
reotyped replies. The Buko-no, however, was duly 
warned, that if any attempt was made to put to death 
victims in our presence, it would be the signal for our 
return to Whydah. Which was, of course, duly 
reported. 

The next day, December 21, was to witness the 
King's ceremonious return to his capital. At noon, a 
dusty-browed messenger rushed in, saying, that royalty 
was approaching ; and we heard cannon-shots, de- 
noting that the King was halted at the Adan-blon- 
noten, receiving the homage of his war chiefs. The 
Buko-no ordered out his horse and " tail," and presently 
came in a green sheet to fetch his strangers. I was 
taken in for the first, and not the last, time before the 
day of our dismissal. The fact is, this veteran so 
believed in the usage of Dahome, that he considered 
us to be, like other white men, during our residence at 
the capita], mere slaves of the King. I flatter myself 
that when we left he had greatly modified that opinion. 
On this occasion, our uniforms having been left at 



THE KING ENTEES HIS CAPITAL. 305 

Kana, we were compelled to wear the ordinary mourn- 
ing attire of Englishmen when they want to be merry. 
As the King approved of this proceeding, I resolved 
for the future to confine uniform to the more cere- 
monious occasions within the palace. 

We rode in our hammocks by a short cut, instead 
of down the broad south-western road, flanking the 
Agbome Palace. The sun was deadly, not being 
tempered by the sea-breeze, which, at this season, 
rarely blows before 3 p.m. We then turned south- 
wards, along a large thoroughfare, towards the Ako- 
chyo-'gbo-nun gate.* These streets are formed, like 
those of.Whydah, by the walls of the habitations, 
thus giving them a populous look : they are, however, 
mere shams, and forest-bush rises close behind them. 
On the right there is an open space, with a 10 iron- 
gun battery scattered upon the ground. We furled 
our umbrellas, and, dismounting, marched through the 
gate, a gap in an iucontinuous wall, like that before 
described. It opened upon the Uhuu-jro f market, a 
broad space, whence the huts had been cleared, and 

* Ako (tribe, family), cliyo (all), agbo'nun (gate) ; meaning, that all 
the world must come to visit Dahome. 

t Uhun-jro, or Uhun-jlo, is derived from the fact that a bombax from 
a conquered place was there transplanted by Gezo. 

VOL. I. X 



306 A MISSION TO GELELE. 

■where men were raising a scaffold of tree trunks, 
barked, and rudely squared. On the other side was 
the tattered wall of the royal precincts : the lowest 
of the five courses of mud masonry was much injured 
by contact with the ground. Passing under a scatter 
of trees, where women were seated, vending edibles, 
we remarked a man standing, gagged,* in front of a 
drummer, and we were told that he M'as a criminal, left 
for execution at the next Customs. Here the pace 
was quickened (it is not respectful to pass the Palace 
except in a hurry), and a summons from the King 
must be ■ obeyed with ostentatious alacrity. On the 
left of the road, and distinguished by the careful 
sweeping of the space in front, is a large fetish-house, 
a long shed, called Nesu-hwe, and dedicated to Nesu, 
the pecuhar Dahoman fetish, the tutelary numen ol 
the empire. 

Turning to the south, we dismounted, as the rule is, 
at the south-eastern corner of the Komasi Palace, built, 
as I have said, by King Gezo. "We passed the 
Komasi gate, the usual barn, with twenty-seven wooden 

* The instrument is a Y-shaped stick ; the sharp end touches the 
palate, whilst the fork embraces the tongue, so that the criminal, how- 
ever much he may suffer, cannot cry out. The gag is used, because, 
if a man speak to the King, he must be pardoned. 



THE KING ENTERS HIS CAPITAL. 307 

posts, and with the two stunted and pollarded trees 
forming, with a bamboo, the forca, common to every 
palace gate. To the cross-pieces hung the normal 
Jo-susu, a little square mat, with narrow perpendicular 
stripes, alternately red and black, and a calabash, 
painted in ruddy and whitey-red speckled sections, 
like those of a melon, and by bundles of Bo-so, freshly 
painted Bo-sticks or truncheons, at each side, completed 
the defences of the entrance. From this the ruler 
will issue to perform the Customs, and his seat 
will be a little to the proper right of the door.* At 
the time only a few men and women soldiery, with 
tall white bonnets, like Sepoys' shakos in former 
times, lounged at the gate. Thence, guided by the 
Buko-no, whose band was neyer silent, we went to a 
tall tree, near the Agwaji, or southern gate ; a large 
thatch, with sixteen mud pillars ; and we placed our 
stools under its thin shade, witnessing the usual 
dancing. 

The space about the Palace is clear, as in Great 
Benin; but here there are no strews of skulls and 
skeletons. The only fragment of a man was a cranium, 
nailed together with a white flag to the trunk, under 

* I thereby mean the left side, as one stands opposite it. 

X 2 



308 A MISSION TO GELELE. 

the lowest bouglis of a large tree opposite the Komasi 
gate. As usual in Yoruba towns, where they build 
loosely to avoid the fires which annually devastate 
elbowing Lagos, the open space in which the multitude 
will gather for the Customs was scattered over with 
palms, calabashes, and figs, with a natural ablaqueation, 
their roots having been bared by rain. There were, 
besides two mean fetish-houses, only three remarkable 
objects in it. The first was a scaffolding, gradually 
rising, opposite the palace. The next was the Adan- 
izan, a round house, with rough posts, supporting a 
conical thatch roof, capped with a white pennon. The 
two opposite entrances were each flanked by two small 
sentinel huts, with clay walls, and shaped somewhat 
like old bee-hives. The interior showed two flights, 
each of -eight mud steps, barred against intruders, and 
the interior was concealed by screens of matting. 
Before campaigning, the King here swears, in the 
presence of his soldiery, what he will do, and listens to 
their terrible boasting of valour. On such occasions, 
the roof and screens are removed.* The third was a 



* This was a ceremony introduced by King Gezo. I was told that 
the present King keeps it up, but during my stay at Agbome it was 
not performed. 



THE B3NG ENTEES HIS CAPITAL. 309 

fine Bombax, enclosed in a dwarf mud wall, and called 
Bwekon-uhun, the Bwe-kon cotton-wood, under which 
Gezo used to sit before he built the Komasi Palace. 
The name Bwe-kon,* meaning a happy or auspicious 
spot, is also applied to the large southern and detached 
suburb, divided from the royal house by the open 
space, and by three wall-less sheds, where the troops 
sit. It contains the Bwe-kon Hwe-'gbo, or big house, 
built by Agongoro (Wheenoohew). The other tene- 
ments are those of men about Court, and many Aja 
and Takpa f captives are settled here. Beyond Bwe- 
kon, again, is the Jegbe Palace, of which more here- 
after. 

We observed the place narrowly, on account of its 
connection with the coming executions. Long strings 
of people, especially women, who apparently do little 
else, were passing to and fro, carrying on their heads 
monstrous baskets and calabashes, " wide as the old 
Winchester bushel," with food for their mistresses the 
soldieresses. Shortly after 1 p.m. two umbrellas, white 
and pink, preceded by musketeers, announced the 
arrival of Agbota, senior Governor of Whe-gbo, and of 

* Ewe (happy), kon (living), 
t Chapter XXI. 



312 A MISSION TO GELELE. 

eastern road,* formed in masses at the other end of 
the open space, somewhat as in a theatre. Then, "with 
the braying of trumpets and the beating of drums, 
they began to pass round iu review order. The right 
shoulder is presented to the King's gate, the Pradak- 
shina of the Hindus, opposed to the Arab Tawaf, or 
circumambulation, which turns the left side to a vene- 
rated object ; and we shall observe this in all future 
processions. The Captains danced and skipped like 
the Salii, their attendants firing and skirmishing before 
them. As is customary, the juniors came first, five 
warriors and worthies of the King leading the rest.f 
They were followed by the Po-su, the " place " of 
the Matro, and the Gau, in a black felt, riding a 
"tattoo," and accompanied by his agminal umbrella, 
of red, blue, and buff colours. Followed three ca- 
boceers, J and two of the King's half-brothers, Bosu Sau 
and Nuage. The 15th was Assoyon, under a white 
umbrella, with twelve men dancing and sham-fighting 
before him ; followed by Assogban and Akhokhwe, a 
half-brother of the King, with a fancy umbrella and 



* The southern entrance is sometimes preferred. 

t Viz., the Aloghan, Akpi, Dokheniin, Akati, and Ahwibame. 

X Viz., the Kade, Jogbwenun, and Apwejekun. 



THE KING ENTERS HIS CAPITAL. 313 

an escort of seventeen men. Two other caboceers* 
preceded the place of Chyudaton, who was sitting with 
us, and the 21st f umbrella ushered in the Bi- wan-ton, 
a man with a pleasant expression, whose escort was a 
fancy umbrella and ten men. The Adanejan, habited 
in a red and blue tunic, and riding, woman-like, a 
little pony, was preceded by sixty men, firing and 
dancing, accompanied by plain red and white fancy 
flags, and followed, like most of the others, by his big 
drum on a man's head, another beating it from behind, 
as if braining it. 

After a short pause, the old Adukonun, a brother 
of the late king, advanced, followed by the Tokpau, a 
war chief, who fired his gun from the shoulder, under 
an umbrella speckled white and blue. The 26th party, 
that of the Awobi, preceded the Yevo-gan of Whydah 
with a French tricolor, a white umbrella, and an escort 
of fifty men : he rode, and waved hands to us as he 
passed. Pour other worthies ushered in the highest 
official of the empire, the senior Min-gan. His dress 
was a war-tunic and a Lagos smoking-cap ; with pipe 



Fix., theAkho, with a fancy umbrella and fourteen men, and the 
Ijkwenun, with a white umbrella and nineteen men. 
t Viz., the Tokonun-vissau, who was on horseback. 



314 A MISSION TO GELELE. 

in mouth he rode a nag handsomely caparisoned, under 
a white fancy umbrella. He was numerously escorted, 
and was followed by a big drum, and by rattles, dis- 
coursing hideous music. Being a man of the old school, 
he studiously avoided looking towards us, lest he might 
be compelled to salute. 

The lesser chiefs, after passing once round the square, 
if I may so call it, crossed, and formed a line of um- 
brellas opposite the Komasi gateway. The high digni- 
taries performed their circuits in the order before 
described, the Min-gan immediately preceding the 33rd 
party, which was that of the King. 

The royal cortege consisted of about 500 musketeers 
and blunderbuss men : it was preceded by skirmishers, 
under the command of Adan-men-nun-kon, " Blue " 
Captain. They were accompanied by one skull stand- 
ard, and eight flags, white, red, anchor-marked, and 
fancy ; and they were followed by two gorgeous um- 
brellas. Immediately in front of the King were borne 
two leather shields, sections of cylinders, white, with 
black patterns, upraised horizontally at the full length 
of the bearer's arm. They are a remnant of the old 
days, when the Dahoman soldiery was armed with 
muskets, cutting swords, and shields ; the latter carried 



THE KING ENTERS HIS CAPITAL. 315 

J boy squires, of -whom one was told off for training 
each man-at-arms. The weapon is now looked upon 
1 a kind of aegis. Near the shields stalked two big 
bold dragoons," in brass helmets and huge black 
jrse-tails.* They had guns as long as spears. Be- 
nd them, in a white calico case, and capped with a 
lowy plume, the iron Bo-fetish stick, called " kafo," 
inounced the presence of royalty. The King rode 
ader four white umbrellas ; and three parasols, yellow, 
urple, and blue-red, were waved and twisted over him, 
) act as fans. When he passed before us, exchanging 
ilutes, there was the usual " Tohu wa Bohu," a frantic 
iish, fiUing the air with red dust, a swarming of men 
round him, " riotously and routously," and a fezi 
^enfer from their weapons. Following a huge fetish 
xe came the band, mostly boys, whose thirty rattles, 
birty cymbals, and dozens of drums, added their din 
D the wildness of the spectacle. A crowd of slaves 
tien appeared, laden with large Gold Coast chairs, 
oxes and baskets of cowries, bottles, decanters, and 
ther articles : in fact, it was the commissariat, with a 



* Mr. Nonis mentions a troop of forty women, with silver helmets : 
ich wealth has long disappeared. A French merchant presented to 
JDg Gezo 100 brilliant casques oi pompiers. 



316 A MISSION TO GELELE. 

suspicion of bakhshish or largesse. The rear was 
brought up by two shabby war-umbrellas, white and 
blue, whilst a tattered flag announced the arriere-garde. 
The King went round twice, in an antiquated red- 
lined vehicle, a mongrel between a cab and a brougham. 
It was drawn by men, who, at the third circuit, raised 
it upon their shoulders : — the African labourer will do 
the same with his wheelbarrow. The fourth and fifth 
tours were made in a Bath chair, a late present from a 
committee of EngUsh philanthropes ; the sixth time it 
was carried aloft, like the carriage. The royal circuits 
are usually three ; the extraordinary number was pos- 
sibly intended to afford me an opportunity of " book- 
ing " the procession ; besides which, the ruler, being 
young, is, as will be remarked throughout the Cus- 
toms, fond of change. The King pressed his mouth 
with a thick kerchief, to keep out the dust. As an 
old traveller says of the Whydah monarch, " he 
seems of a good free temper, and full of mirth and 
kindness, especially when he intends to beg a boon." 
This day he looked wearied and cross, an expression , 
not unfrequent upon the brow of royalty in all lands. , 
"We must consider, however, that he went a total of 
ten circuits of the square, representing some five miles , 



THE KING ENTERS HIS CAPITAL. 317 

' dust and din. We were afterwards informed that 
3 had heen slightly indisposed at Kana ; but had 
3sitively refused to break an appointment with his 
white friend." Illness is rare with him : M. Wallon 
lys he was sickly in youth ; despite reports he shows 
3 traces of debility now. It is wonderful to see the 
nount of labour which he endures in the form of 
leasure, and the cheerfulness which he maintains 
ader his enjoyments : he seldom misses a day in 
ublic, and he ends by tiring out the whole Court. 
When the male chiefs and soldiery had made their 
xth round, they joined the line of umbrellas on the 
mth-east of the square. The King then transferred 
iraself and his most gorgeous canopies to the Ama- 
mry, which was massed at the mouth of the eastern 
)ad. Presently, preceded by skirmishers, firing, and 
nging their sharp bells, the women, forming three 
jrps, that they might appear the more numerous, 
ashed into the square. The first brigade was that of 
16 she-Mingan, four white umbrellas and two flags : 
)me were in parade uniform, others in their travelling 
arb — brown tunics. This small party was followed 
y its band, and, at a short distance, by the twenty- 
ne umbrellas and the five flags of the she-Meu's troop. 



318 A MISSION TO GELELE. 

concluding with their music. After three turns, danc- 
ing, singing, and firing muskets and blunderbusses, they 
retired to the east of the palace. 

The royal body-guard, called the Fanti,'*' now ap- 
peared upon the stage. Their skirmishers, young 
women in high training, performed with great agility. 
Then came twelve fancy flags, escorted by half a dozen 
razor women, who were followed by a platter, contain- 
ing a calabash adorned with skulls. Immediately before 
the King were two crimson leather shields, held up as 
the others were by the men. The Monarch was carried 
by twelve women, in a hammock of yellow silk, hanging 
from a pole, about thirteen feet long, black, set with 
silver sharks, and shod at both ends with brass. Three 
royal umbrellas, blue, red, and yellow, defended him 
from the sun, and he was fanned by three parasols, 
which were not the same as before. Again we re- 
marked amongst this people the inordinate hankering 
after change, novelty, and originality, even in the most 
trivial matters, and the failure which results from their 
poverty of, or rather their deficiency in, invention. 
After the royal hammock came the bands — rattles, 

* Or Gold Coast Corps, in somewhat better discipline than the late 
unlamented G. C. A. 



THE KING- ENTEES HIS CAPITAL. ai9 

cymbals, and drums — with two white umbrellas ; and 
the rear was brought up by the baskets and baggage 
of the commissariat, and by the flags of the arriere- 
garde. 

After the King had made four circuits, the beginning 
of the end was shown by the old To-no-nun crouching 
near our table. " It " was dressed in a blue velvet 
cap, a blanket jacket, and cotton tights, and " it " 
looked more like a guenon than a human. Gelele 
halted opposite us, and sundry of the elder Dakros 
brought for us four large coloured decanters of rum, 
and small bottles of trade liqueur, which were .received 
by the chief eunuch. Strangers are sometimes ad- 
dressed personally at the end of these parades. On the 
present occasion, fatigue, souring temper, abridged 
ceremony. The King and Fanti cortege then stood 
aggrouped to the west of the square, where a heavy 
salute of blunderbusses was fired. They finally passed 
round to the east, and slowly defiled through the 
Komasi gate, folding their umbrellas, in token that the 
" play " was done. The men soldiers indulged in a 
frantic carrousel opposite the palace, furiously dragging 
the empty old brougham round and round, shouting, 
screaming, and firing their weapons like madmen. We 



320 A MISSION TO GELELE. 

waited till the square was clear of women, and at 
5"45 P.M. we retired from the Laus-Perennis of row 
and riot, with the usual finale to a Dahoman parade — > 
a headache. Our guides, the Buko-no and the Prince 
Chyudaton, retired to breakfast 



CHAPTER XII. 

THE PBESENTS ARE DELIVERED. 

At night a violent tornado, whose sheets of flying 
water could hardly be called rain, and a heavy shower 
iu the morning, convinced our hosts that we were 
" good men, whose palaver would be soft as water, not 
hot as fire." The next day (December 22) ought to 
have been one of rest, but the King could not curb 
his impatience to see the presents sent by Her Ma- 
jesty's Government. A final attempt to make me open 
the boxes was vainly made , by the Buko-no, who then 
forwarded them under protest to the palace. I could 
see, however, by his face that the absence of certain 
highly coveted articles had been reported, and had 
excited royal dissatisfaction. Our offerings* to the 

* We presented to the King :— And to the Englisli Mother :— 
1 picture. 1 fathom silk kerchief. 

1 box French perfumery. 1 piece figured calico 

2 pieces merinos. (Madras). 

TOL. I. Y 



322 A MISSION TO GELELE. 

King and to the English mother* — whom, by-the-by, 
I have never seen — were at once shown and given over 
to the Buko-no, as a matter of little moment. 

At 10"15 A.M. we set out to the Komasi Palace, and 
placed our chairs opposite the Agwaji gate. Presently 
Prince Chyudaton, after prostrating, shovelling dust, 
and kissing the ground, before the Komasi entrance, 
under the tree with the ominous fruit, joined us. The 
party was completed by the Buko-no, who issued from 

1 piece crimson silk. 

1 silk kerchief. 

1 case curagoa. 

1 dozen Coloured glass tumblers. 

Mr. Bernasko gave to the King : — To the Buko-no : — 

1 carpet. 10 yards silk. 

I case of liqueur. 1 piece Madras. 

1 piece blue Danes. 2 silk kerchiefs. 

1 pair razors. 

Sundry other presents of cloth must be jjiven to the landlord and the 
chief officers. These, however, I reserved for the exit. 

* At the Court of Dahome every man must have at least one mother, 
and she may be twenty years his junior. The King's actual parent is 
now alive ; when she departs, he must supply her place by selection. 
For each monarch in the dynasty there is, as will be seen, an old woman 
mother. The " mothers" of the high officials are the corresponding 
honours. For instance, the she-Min-gan is popularly called the " he- 
Min-gan's motlier." Many have two " mothers," an old one for the 
last, and a young one for the present reign. Visitors communicate with 
the "mothers" of their several nations. As will be seen, "mothers" 
is the official title of the " Amazons" — hence the custom. 



THE PEESENTS AEE DELIVEEED. 323 

the palace, by the fat Adanejan, and by the Bi-wan- 
ton, or junior Meu, who acts as the Master of Cere- 
monies ib the absence of his principal. These worthies 
were in poor " Hausa tobes," showing that we were 
not likely to see royalty that day. 

After waiting causelessly half an hour, we received a 
summons to enter. Removing our uniform caps, we 
passed through the Gate of Tears into a deep, gloomy 
bam, so dark that we could hardly distinguish the two 
characteristic features, women selling provisions on the 
right, and on the left Gezo's immense war-drum, 
chapletted with skulls.* The inner court, which we 
were fated to learn by heart, bore a family resemblance 
to that of Kana. Here, however, the westerly side 
was a partially whitewashed royal store-house for cloth, 
cowries, and rum — the notes, silver, and copper of the 
country. At its northern extremity, a rough ladder 
led to an immense boarded-up window in the second 
story, and giving to the whole the appearance of a 



This, the national oriflamme, is called Nun (with a very nasal N, 
sounding like Nu, a thing), u (that), pwe (able), tn (he that does). It 
IS a title assumed by King Grizo, and meaninff, " He is able to do any- 
thing he likes." As will be seen, it was first taken by him when he 
imported from England a carriage and horses, and it is applied to a 
dotb, and to other articles of Dahoman vanity, 

Y 2 



324 A MISSION TO GELELE. 

grange. At the bottom of the court was the usual 
thatched barn, Uke the men's guard-house outside ; and 
four white, with three tulip-tinted, umbrellas, showed 
the King's place. The square was scattered over with 
trees and fetish. On the right side were five Legbas 
under one little thatch. To the left rose four fetish 
huts, each containing a dwarf whitewashed idol. The 
most remarkable figure, a Janus, composed of two 
naked bodies joined a tergo, was made of dark clay, 
with glaring white eyes, and two pair of antlers, bending 
inwards. Probably this " Auld Hornie " has been bor- 
rowed from the Portuguese idea of Sathanas. 

The list of presents has been given in the Preface. I 
may be allowed to say of them a few words. 

1. The tent was found to be too small, and, indeed, 
to sit under it for an hour would have been hardly 
possible. We were obliged to pitch it with our own 
hands, which evinced complication, and, in a land. of 
white ants, metal, not wooden, pegs were required, as 
Mr. Edgington, whose cards fell in a shower from the 
boxes, should have known. The article was handsome, 
more so, perhaps, than anything belonging to the King ; 
yet the only part of it admired was the gingerbread 
lion on the pole-top. > 



THE PEESENTS AEE DELIVERED. 325 

2. The pipe was never used, Gelele preferring, for 
lightness, his old red clay and -wooden stem. 

3. The belts caused great disappointment : all the 
of&cials declared that bracelets had been mentioned to 
Commodore Wilmot. Africans are offended if their 
■wishes are not exactly consulted, and they mulishly 
look upon any such sniall oversight as an intended 
shght. 

4. The silver waiters were very much admired, and 
their use was diligently inquired into. 

5. The coat of mail was found too heavy ; and, as it 
will certainly be hung up, fired at, and broken by the 
King, a common cuirass would have been better. The 
gauntlet was too small, and, like the former article, not 
galvanized. 

But what about the carriage and horses ? 

I vainly, for the dozenth time, explained the difficulty 
of sending them. It was disposed of at once with con- 
summate coolness. Carriages had been brought, and 
could come again. If the horses died upon the beach at 
Whydah, no matter. King Gezo, after obtaining an 
equipage, had taken the strong name Nun-u-pwe-to, 
and the son burned to emulate the sire. My hints 
touching the propriety of some concession, on their 



326 A MISSION TO GELELE. 

part, in the cause of humanity, were as cavalierly 
ignored. 

A few words touching presents to African princes, 
the sole object of whose foreign friendships is to obtain 
them, and with whom those who pay the highest are, 
and ever will be, the most powerful. I have already 
mentioned one requisite for contenting them, namely, 
attending to their wishes. A second and a third are, 
that the gifts should be rich and showy, or, at least, 
well assortis* and that they should not come too often. 
It is commonly supposed in England, that anything is 
good enough for a barbarian ; and I have seen presents 
sent out which a West-African chief would hardly 
think of giving to his slave. The old days of the traite 
familiarised the higher ranks with' a kind of magnifi- 
cence, and they have not forgotten it. 

At Dahome, everything given to the King is carried 

* In Dahome, for instance, at the present time : A silver liqueur-case, 
with six battles, each labelled, and a dozen strong and ornamented 
glasses ; a pair of portable mahogany tables, about three feet in dia- 
meter ; a dozen good chairs for guests : they must be of iron, or they 
■will he broken in a month ; a strong lantern for night use ; English 
Union Jacks, and other flags — the bigger and gaudier the better. On 
one occasion the King sent me a message, that he vehemently wanted 
some large banners inscribed with Her Majesty's august name. Finally, 
all these African kings, from Gelele to Rumauika of Karagwah, are 
delighted with children's toys, gutta-percha fans, Noah's Arks ; in. fact, 



THE PEESENTS AEB DELIVERED. 327 

to the palace during the hours of darkness, and is con- 
cealed -with care from the multitude. On the other 
hand, the meanest article presented by him, after being 
paraded round the squares, that the King's munificence 
may be known to the whole world, is sent in state to the 
happy recipient's house. Under these circumstances, 
it is some satisfaction to know that the " dash " in 
these regions, like the bribe in Asia, is omnipotent. 

On the present occasion, the King never even uttered 
an expression of gratitude. His disappointment soon 
pierced through his politeness, which was barely re- 
tained by a state of feeling best expressed in our 
popular adage, — " Better luck next time," especially in 
tie matter of an English carriage and horses. 

When the tent had been pitched, the other boxes 
were carried by three juvenile captainesses under the 
King's barn-verandah, and we were summoned by the 
old slave women to open them. Despite their respect, 
and almost adoration, for the royal person, all the bar- 
barian officiality present made trial of the pipe and the 
gauntlets. They asked us to do the same, when I 



what -would te most acceptable to a child of eight — which the negro is. 
Unfortunately, I could fiad none upon the coast, where they are used 
only in the Batanga ivory trade. 



32S A inSSION TO GELELE. 

informed them that such was not our idea of respect to 
crowned heads. The young Amazons presently bore the 
gifts into the interior, carefully closing the door,- — a 
huge, rudely cut board, carved into a human head, with 
stripes for hair, a face, and a knife, with other Fetish 
objects, stuck about it. The messengers brought us 
water and Akansan bread,® which ray companions 
mixed with the element. A bottle of Medoc was pro- 
duced from the royal cellar : it was lukewarm, and 
far too sour to drink. Yet I have no doubt but that it 
was bought with gold. This is the inevitable result of 
trading with slavers, who sell the worst of everything 
for the highest prices ; the refuse of European markets 
for a cargo which, if successful, fetches ten times its cost 
price. Upon this subject the Dahomans have not been 
blinded ; but, like children, they want to eat and keep 
their pudding, to combine the profits of illicit with the 
benefits of licit commerce, and the constant formula is, 
that what white men have done, white men must undo. 
Presently the young women returned, bearing the 
royal request that we would withdraw to our former 



* See Chapter V. This custom of placing a table before the visitor 
■>rith " plenty of refreshment, both of solids and liq^uids," was practised 
by King Qezo. — Mr. Duncan, vol. i. p. 243. 



THE PEESENTS AEE DELIYEEED. 329 

place under the thin tamarind. This was to enable the 
" King's wives " to inspect the tent without approaching 
too near us. The Amazons again disappeared to re- 
port, and they soon brought back a dismissal decanter 
of rum, with the evil tidings that my " Message " 
would be heard at another opportunity. 

At 1".15 P.M. we retired, after the unusually short 
coi'vee of three hours. ' The rain-sun was dangerous 
when it broke through the clouds, despite occasional 
puffs of cool sea-breeze. We entered the house in 
time to escape a heavy storm from the east, rising 
against the lower wind. It had all the characteristics 
of a tornado, rattling, crackling thunder, with pro- 
longed electric crepitations ; vivid, rose-coloured, forked 
lightning appearing to lick the earth with the tip of 
its fiery tongue ; and gusts, that tore the thatched 
roofs from the houses, and sounded like discharges of 
artillery. Parenthetically, we hardly ever had a shower 
TOthout these displays of electricity, and the Whydah 
men characteristically complained that I had brought 
them too near heaven. Rain fell in lozenges, hke the 
cross-hatching of engravers' shadows, and afterwards 
in perpendicular torrents, that flooded the clayey ground 
in a few minutes. The mass of storm shifted gradually 



330 A MISSION TO GELELE. 

to the north, and cleared away after two hours, allaying 
for as many days the vehement plague of dust. 

I will conclude this chapter with a few words touching 
our landlord, who holds much the same position, in 
respect to King Gelele, as did Dr. Dee to Queen 
Elizabeth. He is, I have said, the son of the last ruler's 
pet mediciner, and for many years he was a man of 
little note. Having attached himself to the actual 
monarch when the latter was a cadet, and by no means 
a favourite son, he predicted to him a crown ; whence 
his present influence. He soon exchanged his little 
huts, which many at Agbome remember, for a large 
establishment, and he was enriched by the usual pro- 
cess. When the King desires to honour a subject, he 
gives him a larger, or a smaller, gang of slaves. By 
selling these, and applying them to palm oil, Fortunatus 
obtains wealth, without which, in Africa, there is no' 
true nobility. 

I soon had a conversation with the Buko-no, on the 
subject of his specialty, the Afa * divination. It is a pro- 
fitable trade ; every one in the country who can afford it 

* The Dahoman form of the Ifa of Egba-land, the god of wisdom and 
prophecy. His origin is from the mythical city of Ife, or F6, as the Ffon 
contracts the word. I have given rough outlines of the worship in 
" Wanderings in West Africa, — Abeokuta," ehap. iv. 



THE PRESENTS ARE DELIVERED. ajl 

" gets Afa,"' as the phrase is. Even English and other 
mulattos consult the oracle, without, however, owning 
to the belief. The master and student must repair to 
sacred, retired, and shady spots, scattered about the 
fields and bush.* After long ceremonies the diviner 
finds out the sign or symbol representing the features 
of the neophyte ; he then demands a heavy initiation 
fee; ten heads are the minimum required even from 
a poor man, whilst the rich would pay a hundred. The 
pupil then receives sixteen palm-nut counters, and is 
taught their use. As he cannot learn much of so dark 
an art, he must take professional advice on all important 
matters ; but the subsequent fees are light, being 
chiefly presents of fowls and provisions. Finally, the 
neophyte is taught by the " Master of Afa " what to 
abstain from — beef or mutton, brandy or palm-wine, like 
the Rechabites obeying their father Jonadab. Afa 
begins before the Dahoman's birth, informing his parent 
what ancestor has sent him into the world ; it is 
his intimate companion and councillor throughout life 

* I have sometimes found them so engaged. It is an ancient practice. 
So Cain and Abel saoriticed in the fields (Gen. iv. 8) ; Isaac meditated, 
or prayed, in the country (Gen. xxiv. 63) ; Elias on Mount Carmel; 
John the Baptist in the Desert of Judea; Jesus in the Garden ->• 
Olives; and Mohammed on Jebel Nur. 



332 A MISSION TO GELELE. 

until he reaches the grave -which it has predicted to 
him. 

The Buko-no ignored the Yoruban triad, Shango, 
Oro, and Obatala ; but he agreed with the Egbas about 
Afa. Seeing that I had some knowledge of the craft, 
he produced from a calico bag his " book," a board, 
like that used by Moslem writing-masters, but two feet 
long by eight inches, and provided with a dove-tail 
handle. One side of this abacus contained what are 
called the sixteen " mothers," or primary, the other 
showed as many children, or secondary, figures.* Each 



* The following note will explain the use of the palm-nuts, and the 
names of the figures : — 

In throwing Afa, the reverend man, or the scholar, if sufficiently 
advanced, takes 16 of the fleshy nuts of a palm, resembling the cocoa- 
tree; these are cleared of sarcoearp, and are marked with certain 
Afa-du, or Afa strokes. 

When Fate is consulted, the 16 nuts are thrown from the right hand 
to the left ; if one is left behind, the priest marks two ; if two, one (the 
contrary may be the case, as in European and Asiatic geomauoy) ; and 
thus the 16 parents are formed. 

The 16 are thus named and made : — 

1. 'I'f Called Bwe Megi : it is the Mother of all. 
II 

II 
II 

2. I I Teku Megi. 
I I 

I I 
I I 



THE PEBSENTS AEE DELIVEEED. 333 

was in an oblong of cut and blackened lines, whilst at the 
top were arbitrary marks — circles, squares, and others, 
to connect the sign with the day. It began with the 
Bwe-Megi, the figure, assigned to Vodun-be — fetish day. 



3. 


II 
1 
1 

II 


II 

1 

1 

II 


Wudde, or Ode-Megi. 


4. 


1 

II 
II 

1 


1 

II 
II 

1 


DI-Megi. 


5. 


1 

1 


1 
1 


Losu Megi. 




1 

II 
II 


1 
II 

II 




6. 


II 
II 

1 


II 
II 

1 


Uran Megi : an inversion of No. 5. 


7. 


1 

I 

II 
II 

1 


1 

1 

II 
II 

1 


Called Abla Megi. 


8. 


II 
II 

II 

1 


II 

II 

II 

1 


Akla Megi ; or Abla inverted. 


9. 


II 

1 
1 


II 

1 
1 


Sa Megi. 


10. 


1 

1 
1 


1 

1 

1 


Guda Megi : an inversion of No. 9, 

1 




1 
II 


1 
II 





334 



A inSSION TO GBLELE. 



or Sunday, — whose mnemonic symbol was six dots in a 
circle ; whilst Monday had a sphere within a sphere. 
It was a palpable derivation from the geomancy of the 
Greeks, much cultivated by the Arabs under the name 
of El Eaml (j*^l)' " ^^^ sand," because the figures 



11. 



12. 



13. 



14. 1 



15. 



16. , 



I Turupwen Megi. 



Tula Megi. 



Lete Megi ; or Tula inverted. 



Ka Megi. 



Che Megi. 



Fu Megi :3|considered the Father of all. 



These 16 parents may have many children. Nos. 13 and 2, for 

instance, make | | 

I I 

II I 

t I 

— and so on, showing an infinite power of combination. 



THE PRESENTS AEE DBLIVEEED. 335 

were cast upon the desert floor. " Napoleon's Book 
of Fate " is a notable specimen of European and 
modern vulgarisation. The African Afa is not, as in 
Asia, complicated with astrology ; and no regard being 
paid to the relative position of figures, it is compara- 
tively unartful. Two details proved to me its Moslem 
origin : the reading of the figures is from right to left, 
and there are seven days, whereas the hebdomadal 
■week is beyond the negro's organisation.* The Buko- 
no, however, is not bigoted; he is more knave than 
fool. Before his retainers he must keep up the farce of 
feith ; but in private he freely owns that the Afa, by 
which a tree can be destroyed and the hour of man's 



* When travellers talk of au African week, they unconsciously allude 
to the great markets, which give their names to the days, and which 
reeur at different intervals in different places. Here there are four. 
The first is the Ajyahi, in Agbome : it was Ajyahi day on Saturday, 
February 6, 1864. The second is the Miyukhi, a large market at 
Kana; also the Uhun-jro, in Agbome: Sunday, February 7, 1864, 
would be called Uhun-jro day. The third is the Adogwin, at Kana, and 
the Fousa, a little provision market, near the Dahome Palace. The 
fourth is the Zogbodoinen, near Agrime ; also the Ako-de-je-go, near 
the Gau's house at Agbome. The word means Ako (family), de (one), 
and jego (tuck up clothes to tight). All these old names are mysterious, 
and little known to the people — the mission.iries call them " parables," — 
and they admit of many interpretulions. Some explain it by, " If 
the King leave his crown to one son, the rest must obey him ; " others 
hy, " If any people boast their valour, let them come to Dahome and 
see." 



336 A MISSION TO GELELE. 

death can be predicted, is merely the means of liveli- 
hood — the King's Afa always excepted. 

This rationalistic admission, however, did not prevent 
the Buko-no at once maliing a sacrifice to his god, for 
having brought a " good stranger " to the King. The 
dancing and singing in his "compound" lasted till dawn, 
and in token of the favourable issue of his divination, 
he sent us next morning a dish of palm-oil, stained 
yams, stewed with pieces of boiled goat. This, con- 
sidering his habitual parsimony, was going far. 

The Senior sets out on his nag, with his suite, to the 
palace, at 6 or 7 every morning. He squats or stretches 
himself, dozing, smoking, chatting, eating, and drinking, 
in one of the outside sheds, ready to be summoned at a 
moment's notice within. Sometimes, but rarely, he 
revisits his house for an hour about noon, when he bar- 
ricades the door, and is not "at home." The post- 
meridional are spent like the morning hours, and he is 
rarely dismissed before dark, often not till deep in the 
night. These people seem hardly to take natural 
rest ; the drum and the dance may be heard at his 
quarters until dawn, and he delares that if this mode of 
life were changed he should fall ill. Like the Dahoman 
dignitaries in general, he must be sober, under pain of 



THE PEESENTS ARE DELIVERED. 337 

" King's palaver." He cannot be said to have an hour's 
liberty, or to be his own master for a day, whilst the 
King is in the city. He leads the life of the East Indian 
Dhobi's dog, " Na ghar ka, na ghat ka."* Such is the 
routine of a Dahoman noble. What an existence to 
love ! 
The Buko-no has lately married a young princess, — 

" Blythe and buxome at bedde and boarde," 

with whom Love is yet the Lord of all : we shall pre- 
sently meet her in the palace. According to etiquette, 
he must prefer her to all his other spouses, of whom he 
has eighty. He is perpetually begging us for aphro- 
disiacs ; t and on one occasion his wives, overhearing 
the request, loudly accused him of taking away their 
good name. He is very jealous of these ladies, and 



* " A washerman's dog, neither of the house nor of the ghaut" (where 
the master washes). 

t Similarly, Captain Phillips relates to us that the uxorious old " King 
of Whidaw," when about to marry (probably a 3000th wife), applied to 
him for a rundlet of brandy, as a Christmas present for the bride's 
friends and his " oappashiers," and for a " strong-back medicine" for 
himself. He sent the ship's surgeon, who gave him a dose of cantharides, 
" which so heated the old man's reins that he became, as it were, a 
youngster once more," and on the next morning related to the strangers 
various impertinences. 

VOL. I. ■, 



338 A MISSION TO GELELE. 

often declares that a woman is the only thing which a 
man should not share with his friend. We constantly 
hear them singing, chattering, and quarrelling within ; 
but they rarely appear ; and on one occasion he accused 
my Krumen of making too free with our " fair " 
neighbours. They are mostly black, rarely brown ; 
like Shakspere's waves, they " curl their monstrous 
heads " into the semblance of a prize cauliflower, and 
their dress is a long white sheet, extending to the 
ankles, passed under the arms and over the bosom. At 
times the faster lot play at bo-peep, when le brutale is 
away ; but as they are never alone, matters cannot go 
too far. 

Christmas here was distinguished by a violent storm 
of thunder, lightning, and rain, the latter, as the old 
traveller says, " more like fountains than drops, and 
hot, as if warmed over a fire." Our modern copy of 
the ancient Saturnalia opened with a cool, grey morn- 
ing, almost as cloudy and sunless as could be expected 
in the Black North. We duly drank to the land we 
Hve out of, and the day ended with a heathenish 
dance of the hammock-men, to whom rum had been 
issued. The Mission servants joined, and the boy 
Richard Dosu distinguished himself by the activity of 



THE PRESENTS ABB DELIVEEBD. 339 

a rat, the cunning of a fox, and the impudence of a 
London sparrow. The next day -was a half Har- 
mattan, which made the natives don warm wrappers, 
lose appetite, and shun the bath. We, un-Ascians, 
delighted in the cold, dry air, accumulating positive 
electricity, and throwing off the negativity of the 
humid plain-heat. We bade adieu to anorexy, felt 
" Mnc sanitas " now, and were ready to hymn, with 
holy Mr. Herbert, — 

" Sweet day ! so cool, so calm, so bright," 

Our first passage of arms with " Pantakaka," the 
old Buko-no, occurred on Christmas eve. The 
King has virtually abolished the custom of cribbing, 
cabining, and confining visitors till the Message is 
delivered.* To my request that the landlord would 
provide us with a guide, as we purposed going out 
shooting in the morning, he returned various frivolous 
excuses. I at once sent an interpreter to the Prince 



* Dr. M'Leod, who had made himself obnoxioua, received a message, 
when applying for permission to depart, that he was to become a King's 
ekve, meaning, not one who had actually to labour, but a state prisoner. 
This, which he justly calls the " bleakest prospect imaginable," was a 
iBeie temporary act of caprice. 

z 2 



340 A MISSION TO GELELE. 

Chyudaton, who, in reply, begged pardon for the old 
man's folly, and requested me not to act before his 
visit. He came to us in the morning, heard my com- 
plaint, and went with it to the palace. In the evening, 
the Buko-no met us with an ample apology, a quarter 
of beef, a promise of a guide, and an offer of intro- 
duction to the " princess." 

The King usually supplies his guests with pure 
water : in our case, however, the courtesy was ne- 
glected. We had forgotten — future travellers will not — 
to take a large dripstone filter, and we were beginning 
to suffer from the white, clayey stuff brought to us by 
our lazy hammock-men and servants. The element is 
here about as scarce as in Thorold Square and HoUybush 
Place. Sin dagbwe diyye ! — " Good water this ! " is a 
cry ever heard in the streets, and pots full are sold in 
every market. We therefore engaged four Sin-no or 
" water-mothers," as they are called, to supply us with 
a sufBciency for the day. Unfortunately, as soon as 
they could collect a few cowries, they would stay at 
home for a week. 

To reduce our establishment, I sent back five of the 
Mission boys to Whydah, with orders to wait for and 
return with our letters. They would do nothing : their 



THE PEESENTS .^B DELIVEEED. 3-11 

sole efforts Avere confined to eating and talking, iu 
Avhich two pursuits, but in these only, I must own that 
they displayed all the Anglo-Scandinavian energy and 
competition. As is usual in the land, every one was 
afflicted with " a paralytic distemper which, seizing the 
arm, the man cannot but choose shake his elbow : " — 
they gambled from morning till night. The favourite 
game is Aji-do ; * probably the most ancient form of 
tabliers, or tables ; but here it is far from the civili- 
sation of " evangiles de bois." It is played on a board, 
with twelve cups, the antagonists taking the six nearest 
to them ; four tessera, dropped into each, are moved 
round from left to right, until the last cowrie falls 
upon two or three of the adversary's, and takes them. 
There^ is another, and a somewhat more complicated 
game, called Sigi-to.f 

On St. John's Day (December 27), Mr. Cruikshank, 
when returning from the palace, where he had been 



* From Aji (the Guilandina Bonduc seed, which was originally used 
in it), and do (a hole). The game is the Sa' Leone " Wari," the Ashanti 
"Warra, the Fanti "Wal, the Egba's Ajo, and the Bao of Usawahili and 
Zanzibar : it is played in a great variety of ways. 

t From Sigi (the dice with which it is played), and to (a town). The 
dice made in Agbome are very rude ; but manifestly an imitation of the 
Enropean. 



342 A MISSION TO GBLELE. 

treating an Amazon for a deeply-seated inflammation 
of the eye, saw the war-chiefs arriving at the capital 
from the last oat-stations, and parading before th& 
palace. This was a hint that the Customs would com- 
mence at once.. 



CHAPTER XIII. 

OF THE GEAND CUSTOMS AND THE AKNUAL CUSTOMS 
GENERALLY. 

The word " Custom " is used to signify" the cost or 
charges paid to the King at a certain season in the 
year. It is borrowed by us from our predecessors on 
the West African Coast — the old French — who wrote 
ciy&tume,* and the Portuguese costume, meaning habit 
or usage. 

The Grand Customs f are performed only after the 
death of a king. They excel the annual rites in splen- 
dour and in bloodshed, for which reason the successor 
defers thera till he has become sufficiently wealthy. 
The " History," which was not written in the days of 
details, gives cursorily some terrible accounts of the 

* So Barbot (i. 4) speaks of La coutume (the tax) de Parmier. 
+ Dr. M'Leod (p. 59) distinguishes them as double customs, opposoil 
to single customs ; but he is singular in this. 



344 A MISSION TO GELELE. 

slaughter and of the barbarities which accompanied it. 
" In the months of January, February, and March 
(1791), the ceremonies of the Grand Customs and of 
the King's coronation, took place ; the ceremonies of 
which lasted the whole three months, and were marked 
almost every day with human blood. Captain Fayrer, 
and particularly Mr. Hogg, Governor of Appolonia, 
were present ; and both affirm that not less than five 
hundred men, women, and children fell " victims to 
revenge and ostentation, under the show of piety. 
Many more were expected to fall ; but a sudden 
demand for slaves having thrown the lure of avarice 
before the King* he, like his ancestors, showed he was 
not insensible to its temptation." 

The curious reader will find at the end of the pre- 
sent volume a paper by the Rev. Mr. Bernasko, who 
was present at the last Grand Customs performed in 
November, 1860, by the present sovereign, to honour 
the manes of his sire. Although the horrors of this 
rite were greatly exaggerated, with ridiculous adjuncts,! 

* Agongoro (Wheenoohew), the grandfather of the reigniug soveieiga. 

t For instance, the Europe-wide report that the king floated a canoe 
and paddled himself in a tank full of human blood. It arose from the. 
custom of collecting the gore of the victims in one or two pits about two 
feet deep and four in diameter. See Appendix III. 



aRAND CUSTOMS AND ANNUAL CUSTOMS. 345 

1 Europe, it is clear that very little change has taken 
ilace, especially in the number of victims, during two- 
hirds of a century. 

The yearly Customs were first heard of by Europe 
a the days of Agaja the Conqueror (1708-1727), 
Jthough they had doubtless been practised many years 
»efore him. They form, in fact, continuations of the 
jrand Customs, and they periodically supply the de- 
)arted monarch with fresh attendants in the shadowy 
vorld. They are called by the people Khwe-ta-nun 
'The yearly head thing," and Anun'gbome* "Going 
.0 Agbome in the Dries." The number of victims 
las been much swollen by report. Mr. James, at the 
)eginning of the present century, found the maximum 
)f three several years to be sixty-five. Commander 
?orbes, who writes feelingly, owns that, in the later 
rears of King Gezo's reign, not more than thirty-six 
leads fell. I have laid down a total of at most eighty 
luring the time of my mission, and of these none, 
ixcept the criminal part, were Dahoman.* 

* Literally, anun (in the dries after the rains), 'gbomen, for Agbomen 
we will go to Agbome). The other name is khwe (year), ta (head), nun 
thing). 

t So Mr. Duncan states. " The people thus sacrificed are generally 
risoners of \rar, whom the king often sets aside for this purpose .... 



346 A MISSION TO GELELE. 

The season of the Customs, which combine carnival, 
general muster, and lits de justice, seems to comprise 
the whole year, except the epoch of the annual slave- 
hunts,' here dignified by the name of "wars." For 
instance, at present the King purposes to set out on 
his marauding expedition, in February, and to return 
in March or April. He then lodges at the Jegbe 
Palace, " spreads a table " (in other words, gives a 
banquet), and purchases the captives from his soldiery. 
The next move is to the country-quarters at Kana, 
where, about May, he will perform the Oyo Customs,* 
and then take his rest — a happy murderer. In No- 
vember, when the rains are ended, he will summon his 
chiefs, sleep at the Adan-we Palace, and on the next 
day make a ceremonious entrance into his capital, like 
that which I have just described. This year various 
delays have put off the rites till December. 

The annual Customs are of two kinds. The first — 
which happened, for instance, in 1862-63 — is called 
Atto-ton-khwe, or the Attof year, from the Atto, or 

Should there be any lack of these, the number is made up from the 
most convenient of his own subjects." Such, however, is not, I believe, 
the custom now. 
* See Chap. VII. 
t Pronouaeed Attaw. In the History there is mention of four plat- 



GRAND CUSTOMS AND ANNUAL CUSTOMS. 347 

.tform, in the Ajyahi market, whence the vic- 
is are precipitated. Of its pecuharities we have 
3tches by Mr. Norris (1772) and M. Wallon (1856- 
), finished descriptions and poor drawings by Com- 
inder Forbes (1849-50), and, later still, an official 
jount by Commodore Wilmot.* The second is the 
-sin-khwe (1863-64), the "Horse-tie year," and the 
ison of the name will presently appear. As yet, no 
iveUer has, I believe, described the ceremonies of the 
-sin, which, however, differ but little from those of 
e Atto. 



ms, raised stages of rough timber, covered with cloths and provided 
ih seats for the King and his visitors. Gezo reduced the number to 
3, and his son has again excelled him by doubling it. 
* See Appendix III. 



CHAPTER XIV. 



THE king's "SO-SIN CUSTOM.' 



SECTION A. 

First Day of the King's Annual Customs. 

Early on the Day of the Innocents (December 
28th), a discharge of musketry near the palace and a 
royal message informed us that the Customs had begun, 
and that our presence at the palace was expected. We 
delayed as long as was decent, and, shortly after noon, 
mounting our hammocks, we proceeded by the usual 
way to the Komasi House. 

In the Uhun-jro market-place, outside the .Ako-chyo 
Gate, and not attached, as it used to be, to the palace- 
wall, stood a victim shed, completed and furnished. 
From afar the shape was not unlike that of an English 
village church — a barn and a tower. The total length 



THE KING'S "SO-SIN CUSTOM." 349 

as about 100 feet, the breadth 40, and the greatest 
eight 60. It was made of roughly-squared posts, 
ine feet high, and planted deep in the earth. The 
round-floor of the southern front had sixteen poles, 
pen which rested the joists and planks supporting the 
ent-shaped roof of the barn. There was a western 
ouble-storied turret, each front having four posts.* 
he whole roof was covered with a tattered cloth, 
lood-red, bisected by a single broad stripe of blue 
aeck. 

In the turret and the barn were twenty victims. 
lII were seated on cage stools, and were bound to the 
osts which passed between their legs ; the ankles, the 
liins under the knees, and the wrists being lashed 
utside with connected ties. Necklaces of rope, passing 
ehind the back, and fastened to the upper arms, were 
Iso made tight to the posts. The confinement was not 
ruel : each victim had an attendant squatting behind 
im, to keep off the flies ; all were fed four times a 
ay, and* were loosed at night for sleep. As will be 

* We find in the History (print, p. 130) a single thatched and open 
led, with twelve men sitting on the ground : their hands are laShed as 
ow. The late king added a turret of one story, and the present ruler a 
icond stage. In the old illustration, there are twelve horses tied to the 
inder posts, we saw but three. 



350 A MISSION TO GELELE. 

shown, it is tlie King's object to keep them in the best 
of humours. 

The dress of these victims was that of state criminals. 
.They wore long white nightcaps, with spirals of blue 
ribbon sewn on, and calico shirts of quasi-^ViVOTpea,n 
cut, decorated round the neck and down the sleeves 
with red bindings, and with a crimson patch on the 
left breast. The remaining garment was a loin-cloth, 
almost hidden by the " camise." It was an ominous 
sight ; but at times the King exposes vrithout slaying 
his victims. A European under thq circumstances 
would have attempted escape, and in all probabihty 
would have succeeded : these men will allow themselves 
to be led to slaughter like lambs. It is, I imagine, the 
uncertainty of their fate that produces this extraordi- 
nary nonchalance. They marked time to music, and 
they chattered together, especially remarking us. Pos- 
sibly they were speculating upon the chances of a 
pardon.* 

We dismounted, as usual, at the palace corner, and 
the Harmattan sun made us take refuge under one of 

* Exactly the same thing is observed in the History. " The unhappy 
victims, though conscious of their impending fate, were not indifferent 
to the music, whioh they seemed to enjoy by endeavouring to beat time 
to it." 



THE KING'S " SO-SIN CUSTOM." 331 

the sheds. A procession was walking round the 
square — a mob of followers escorting the Sogan, or 
Horse Captain,* who was riding bareheaded under a 
white umbrella. This high official, who is under the 
Meu, opens the Customs by taking all the chargers 
from their owners, and by tying them up, whence the 
word " So-sin." The animals must be redeemed, after 
a few days, with a bag of cowries. 

A gun, fired inside the palace, warned us that royalty 
was about to appear. A corps of " Amazons " streamed 
from, and formed a rough line in front of, the Komasi 
Gate. The King, under a gorgeous umbrella, and the 
usual parasol upheld by his wives, stalked down a lane 
through the thick crowd towards his own proper So- 
sin. This was a shanty fronting, and about 150 paces 
from, the palace. It resembled the Uhun-jro, or 
market-shed to the N.N .East, but it lacked the turret. 
Thirty barked and badly-dressed tree-trunks, and a 
strong scantUng of roughly-squared timber, supported 
the first-floor, which was without walls. The thatch of 
the pent-roof was hidden, as in the other So-sin, by a 
glaring blood-red calico, with long black stripes along 
the ridge and eaves. Splints of bamboo frond were 

* So (horse), and gan (captain). 



354 A MISSION TO GELELE. 

occupied a kind of couch, strewed with handsome 
home-made cottons ; in front of him, upon a mat, 
crouched a Dakro, or messengeress, and behind him 
stood and sat a semicircle of wives. 

On the King's proper right was a larger shed, some- 
what like a two-poled tent. The mat and thatch were 
covered with cloth, parti-coloured at the sides and at 
the roof, whilst elsewhere it was of white calico, adorned 
with grotesque shapes. Unlike its neighbour, it was 
closed all round except at the entrance, which had for 
verandah two white umbrellas. Inside, at the bottom, 
was a kind of divan, and on the ground before it sat a 
small black child in red, and two women with white 
caps and vests, and blue pagnes, with four or five 
others hardly distinguishable. The double posts sup- 
porting the entrance were clothed with red and pink 
silk ; about their middle hung a dozen abacot caps, 
and under the verandah squatted a woman with a gun 
placed on a stool before her. 

This tent contained the relics of the old King. His 
ghost is supposed to be present, and all bow and pro- 
strate to it before noticing the present ruler. 

To Gelele's extreme right was planted a white flag, 
with a blue cross ; around the staff a group of armed 



TIIE KING'S " SO-SIN CUSTOM." S55 

women gathered. Immediately near the King, but 
leaving a square space in front, were the Amazons, at 
squat, "with their gun-barrels bristling upwards ; there 
were amongst them many young girls in training for 
military life. A half-naked boy lay on the ground 
within a, few feet of the royal umbrellas, and children 
are allowed behind the bamboos. On other occasions, 
juveniles, wholly nude, wandered about^ heedless of re- 
proof, and I have seen two of them fighting before the 
throne. Even the lowest orders crossed the presence 
with an air for which, in Asia, their feet and calves 
would have disappeared under the bastinado. The 
barbarous nature of the African everywhere pierces 
through, whatever be the disguise. 

On the left of the King were the Amazon drums and 
rattles. In the open space between the throne and the 
bamboos lay the three calabashes supporting the three 
chieftains' brass-mounted skulls. On two large mats of 
palm-fibre were ranged shallow baskets, which acted as 
saucers to calabashes some 2-50 feet in diameter. 
Three of them were adorned with silver crescents and 
stars, whilst all were covered above and below with 
various coloured calicoes — red, blue, yelldw, pink, and 
striped. Periodically, knots of eight or nine women 

A A 2 



356 A MISSION TO GELELE. 

came from the palace -with larger or smaller gourds of 
provisions, which they disposed upon a third mat in 
front of the King. 

In a much shorter time than it has taken the reader 
to peruse this mise en scene, the caboceers and their 
followers, who were scattered over the square, gathered 
into a dense semicircle near the bamboos. The digni- 
taries sat or lay on the ground, unarmed, under their 
white, blue, and fancy umbrellas. The little people 
were on foot behind them, and the women and girls 
stood aloof, peeping as they best could. The total 
number present, including about 300 children, might 
have amounted to 2500, and I never saw at Agbome 
a larger gathering. 

The day opened with various preliminaries. Ten 
unarmed men were dancing in line before the Komasi 
Gate when the King came forth. The sally of the 
Amazons was succeeded by long and loud firing. 
After all were seated, the old Yevogan led us up to the 
bamboos, where, fronting the King, we exchanged 
salutations, — this was an invariable part of the cere- 
mony. The senior then conducted us to a place on the 
left or Men's side of the male semicircle, close to a very 
strong band, whose two chiefs wore Phrygian bonnets 



THE KING'S "SO-SIN CUSTOM." 361 

of red and blue velvet. A hole was dug in the ground 
and a large white umbrella was planted over us for 
shade, the " earth being beat tightly round it, similar to 
a large mushroom." Presently the Meu brought up a 
flask of gin and a calabash of AtH, or bean-cake, 
wrapped in plantain leaf, with a royal message that the 
" -white-man's captain " had sent, according to custom, 
this food to the King, and that he shared it with us 
(formula) ; whereupon we bowed our acknowledg- 
ments. 

Gelele then rose, and came from out his shed. His 
dress, besides the usual bracccB and a dark silk kerchief 
round his waist, was a blue-flowered damask shirt, a 
table-cover, in fact, and this was knotted on his left 
side. He formed an effective picture : a fine tall figure, 
with shoulders towering above his wives, the head bent 
slightly forwards, and his hands clasped behind his 
back. There were hushed murmurs of applause, and 
the faces of his subjects expressed unaffected ad- 
miration. 

Sundry of the King's wives accompanied their lord, 
and stood or sat upon the ground behind him. None 
were handsome, but some had the piquancy of youth. 
Their strong point, as in the Italian and Spanish 



358 A MISSION TO GELELE. 

AA'omen, was the pettinatura. The prettiest of the 
hair-dresses was a short crop, Hke lambswool, some- 
times stained blue, as with indigo. The plainest was 
the melon-stripe, where the short hair was plaited in 
lines, exposing the scalp between. The most grotesque 
was the semblance of pepper grains, or of cloves stuck 
in a ham, formed by twisting up single little wool 
spirals. Another peculiar coiffure was the tuft, varying 
from one to four, some small as thimbles, others large 
as the Turk's-caps on lamp chimneys ; they rose sharp 
and solid from the clean brown scalp, and seemed 
made of black velvet, burned reddish by the sun. 
The princesses wore the hair like a fez, bristhng 
stiff to the height of six inches, and .looking 
compact as ebony wood. A few had bear's ears, 
two tufts upon the "region of cautiousness;" others 
wore the scarlet feather of an oriole stuck in their 
sable locks. 

Immediately behind the King stood three wives — 
one with the head shaven and naked, the second with 
long hair, and the third with a princely " fez." They 
sheltered his uncapped poll with three gorgeous tent- 
umbrellas of cotton velvets, whilst a fourth protected 
him with a gay parasol. The first Avas a parody upon 



THE KING'S '"SO-SIN CUSTOM." 359 

the Sacre Coeur — which the Dahomans admire, probably 
because it suggests tearing out the foeman's heart. 
Each lappet of the valance was alternately green and 
Qjiimson ; in the upper part was a larger cross, red or 
yellow, with a black or white border, and below it, of 
the same hue, an object manifestly intended for a 
human heart but broken into crockets. In the centre 
of this was a better shaped heart with a small white 
medial cross ; and both were disposed apex downwards. 
The second showed an upper line of white crosslets on 
black velvet ; below it was a blue shark, edged white 
and yellow, with a red and purple eye, resting upon 
crimson or claret-coloured velvet, which was lined with 
a binding Hke that of the animal. The third, and the 
most splendid, was capped with a very heraldic wooden 
lion, painted the brightest saffron. The lappets showed 
the king of the beasts grasping in the dexter paw a 
white scimitar, and below it a biped, very negro, with 
dazzling white knickerbockers and no legs to speak of, 
vainly upholding a blue sword blade. Both figures were 
on red ground, par seme with little white crosses. This 
umbrella was equally grandly lined, whereas the two 
former were white inside. The diameters varied from 
six to ten feet, rendering them unmanageable in 



360 A MISSION TO GELELE. 

windy weather. The poles were seven feet long, and 
instead of wires they had square rods connected by 
strings, probably brought by the Portuguese, and easily 
to be distinguished from the rude native stick frames. 
They were kept open by a peg passed through the 
upper part of the handle. 

Before the speech began, four bundles of palm- 
matting, which lay inside the bamboo barrier, were 
opened by the women. Each contained a lamp-black 
drum, the largest three feet high, all with skin-heads 
lashed tight to about a dozen large pegs projecting a 
few inches below the top. They were decorated with 
small squares of red stuff in front, with white, blue, and 
black cloths behind them, like four aprons of different 
sizes. These are called Ganchya 'hun.* The word 
applies especially to its peculiar sound or beat, and, by 
inference, to the song of which it forms the accom- 
paniment. 

The King having hitched up his body-cloth, began 
an allocution in a low tone, as if " nervous." Men and 
women huissiers and heralds, standing on the right, 
and the youths calling themselves the "Donpwe," pro- 
claimed attention by loud and long cries of " Ago ! " 

* Hun, or uhun, is the generic name of a drum. 



THE KING'S " SO-SIN CUSTOM." 361 

Audience ! — or " Oyez ! " * On the left a sharp double 
tap "was struck on the cymbal, and all obeyed. The 
King spoke with the head a little on one side, assuming 
a somewhat goguenard air. His words were many and 
oft repeated ; the genius, or rather the poverty of the 
language necessitates verbosity. In so artless a tongue 
it is only by " battology " and frequent repetition that 
the finer shades of meaning can be elicited. The sense 
is short to relate. " His ancestors had built rough and 
simple So-sin sheds. His father, Gezo, had improved 
them when ' making Customs ' for the ghost of Agon- 
goro (Wheenoohew). It is good to beget children who 
can perform such pious rites. Therefore, he (Grelele) 
would do for his sire what he hoped that his son would 
do for him." And some score of men sat listening — 
about to- die ! 

Presently, the women in attendance placed the 
drums before the King, and handed to him four hooked 
sticks. Upon these he spat, beat two of the instru- 
ments, and spoke during the intervals of drumming 
The " Ganchya," I was told, is a new ceremony. 



* The general word for " silence ! " is " nagbo ! " Both at Abeokuta 
and at Aghome it is used when entering the house, so as not to take the 
inmates by surprise. 



362 A MISSION TO GELELE. 

After listening to loud applause, and being saluted 
■with discharges of musketry, the King retired behind 
the curtain held by his wives, and whilst he drank the 
subjects went through the usual ceremony. 

After resting awhile, Gelele stalked to the fore. In 
his left hand was a Kpo-ge,* or singer's staff — a silver- 
headed and feruled stick, two feet long. To the upper 
part was fastened a square of silk kerchief, striped red 
and purple, and folded into a triangle. The apex was 
passed through silver-lined eyelet-holes, like those that 
in former times, amongst us, held the " beau's " cane 
tassel. The King also wore the bard's insignia — double 
necklaces of beads, disposed like cross belts over the 
breast, and with the usual pigtails behind. After 
singing for awhile, to the great dehght of the listeners, 
he danced, first to the men's, then to the women's 
band. He is, unlike his father, a notable performer, 
and though the style is purely Dahoman and barba- 
rous, the movements are comparatively kingly and 
dignified. He was assisted in this performance by a 
" leopard wife " f on each side, dressed in white waist- 



* Kpo (a- staff), and ge (thin). 

t In the Ffon, kpo (a leopard), and 'si (a wife) — here usually trans- 
lated tiger-wives. They are the youngest and the fairest of the harem. 



THE EING'S " SO-Sm CUSTOM." 365 

coats, and striped loin-cloths extending to the feet. 
In their hair was a kind of diadem of silver pieces, 
bright as new sixpences. At this sight the people 
vociferated their joy. A herald, in a huge felt hat 
and bright bracelets, and a jester, conspicuously ugly, 
with a tattered " wide-awake," a large goat-skin bag- 
under the left arm, and chalked face and legs, rose ia 
their . feet, and pointing at the King — a peculiarly 
disrespectful action to European eyes — declared, in 
cracked, shouting voices, that he was " Sweet, sweet, 
sweet as a white man ! " Then followed a chorus of 
soldieresses, and from the crowd loud " Ububu," *" made 
by patting the open mouth with the hand. On the 
women's side the " King's birds " f chirruped and twit- 
tered to justify their names. 

Before sitting down, Gelele advanced to the front 
rank of male spectators, and removing, with his right 
fore-finger, the perspiration from his brow, scattered 
it, with a jerk over the delighted group. He was then 



* This is the " HI " of Persia and the "zagharit " of Egypt. Here it 
expresses wonder and pleasure, and is mostly confined to the men. 

+ A select troop of musicians known as akhosu (king), and khwe 
(bird). They are of both sexes; hut the sound generally proceeds from 
the women. The male " king-birds" are attired, like Moslems, in whit& 
petticoats. 



364 A MISSION TO GELELE. 

cooled by his wives, who rubbed him down with fine 
yellow- silk kerchiefs, and vigorously plied their round 
hide fans,* coloured and embroidered. 

Then, rising again, like a refreshed giant, the 
monarch danced to six modes. When the time was 
to be changed, a chorus of women gave the cue to 
their band by repeating certain meaningless technical 
terms, ending with frequent repetitions of " Ko ! ko ! 
ko ! " till the musician has learned the right measure. 
Presently, two, and, at a short interval, three wives 
danced on each side of the King, keeping an eye upon 
him, and so preserving excellent time. The fourth 
dance was more animated, and as the monarch showed 
shortness of breath, an old Amazon addressed him, 
" Adan-we ! " f He resumed his labours to the words, 
" Agida 'hun-to Ko-'hun ! " \ and he advanced, stoop- 
ing towards the ground, and rolling one elbow over 
another, to show that he was binding captives. 

Followed a little change of scene. The King, prop- 
ping his elbow upon the bard's staff, and bending low 

* In rfon, known as "Afafa ;" in Abeokuta, "Agbebbe." 

t Meaning, " brave white ! " 

I Explained thus: Agida (the bent drum-stick), 'hun-to (drum 
beater), ko-hun (beat the drum), kaya (turning or wheeling about) ; 
viz., Drummer, use thy drum-stick, and we will turn about. 



THE KING'S "SO-SIN CUSTOM." 355 

■whilst his wives surrounded him, sitting on their hams, 
sang, and was responded to by what appeared a 
laughing chorus, but which, was a dirge — a single 
cymbal making melancholy music. Then rising with 
uplifted staff, and turning towards the larger shed- 
tent, he adored, in silence, his father's ghost. This 
new and startling practice was twice repeated. 

Decorations were distributed — a pair of singers' 
staves to a male and a female, who received them with 
cries of " Tamule ! "* The King then brought out by 
twos half a dozen double-pigtailed necklaces of yellow 
beads, interrupted by red. Three were handed to the 
Meu, the Yevogan, and a favourite singer, who put them 
on in due form. The rest were given to the highest 
she-dignitaries, whose lips were white with kissing the 
ground. Grundeme, the woman Min-gan, is white- 
haired and tottering. Egbelu, the "Men's Mother," 
has grey hair, sharpish features, and broken fronl teeth. 
Na-dude Agoa,t the female Yevogan, is a huge, middle- 
aged woman, brown, and rolling in fat. Her hair is 
still black, and her features not quite uncomely ; her 

* A corruption of the Fanti " Endamenen," brave man! 
t Explained by, "I eat one thing not, right" ; i.e., I cannot eat or 
embezzle anything. 



366 A MISSION TO GELELE. 

voice is strong and clear ; moreover, she speaks well. 
This is the officer who bare two sets of twins, first girls, 
then boys, to the King. The two former, according to 
the ancient usage of the empire, were betrothed' to the 
Min-gan and the Meu, when the wicked cousin' won 
their premices. Formerly, the royal ladies had only 
temporary husbands, visiting' all men who pleased 
them. As this caused grfeat scandals, the King has 
forbidden polyandry ; but the husbands, as a rule, must 
confine their marital attentions to the blood-royal. On 
marriage, the daughters receive each a dowry of eighty 
slaves, male and female, but the aged sons-in-law are 
expected to " spend money like water." 

Presently, Gelele, who was sitting in front of the 
feminine Court, handed sundry rolls of blue and piilk 
cottons to the Meu. The high dignitaries all rose 
excitedly, unfolded, and, standing at a distance, 
stretched each cloth to show that it was an entire 
piece. A \vhite umbrella, opened and waved about by 
the Min-gan, a caboceer's stool, bran new, and sundry 
heads of cowries were placed before the presence. This 
was the ceremony of raising a captain to the rank of 
Ajyaho,* and, to the wonderment of all, Chabi, a young 

• See Chap. YIII. 



THE KING'S " SO-SIN CUSTOM." 3G7 

man and Left-hand Commander of the Blue Guards, 
therefore under the orders of Adan-men-nun-kon, was 
raised to the sixth rank in the realm. 

The " Grandfather of Dahome " has ever been, I 
have said, the he'ir of his subjects, whose widows, 
slaves, and all moveable property must be carried to 
the palace. It is probable that the goods do not leave 
the lion's den without yielding considerable "heriot" as 
the Hon's share. As a rule, the eldest son, or, if he 
be judged unfit, the successor to the vacant office, 
inherits the deceased's wives and makes them his own, 
excepting, of course, the woman that bare him.* This 
was practically proved to us. A file of fourteen 
women, two with babies on their backs, twice issued 
from the palace, carrying big native boxes, grass- 
cloth bags, old muskets, silver armlets and bracelets, 
home-made stools, hats, pipes, sticks, umbrellas in 
ragged cloths, and similar valuables. Twice the 
new wives and slaves crouched humbly before their 
proprietor. Soon afterwards, forty-three male " chat- 
tels " of the deceased crawled on all-fours from the 



* Especially in the royal family. So in 2 Samuel xii, 8 we read 
that Nathan gave David's master's wives unto David's bosom. In that 
baitarons state of Society Women are inherited like cattle. 



368 A MISSION TO GELELB. 

left past the King, and did homage to their "Hve 
lord." 

"When the King's silver-mounted pipe had been lit 
behind the tente d'abri extemporised by the wives' 
clothes, and had been handed to him, we produced our 
cigars, and applied ourselves to the old liqueur-case. 
We persevered in distributing the contents amongst our 
Krumen and followers — they are expected to drink 
kneeling — although the Buko-no showed manifest dis- 
approval of such waste. Presently, the cracked-voiced 
Min-gan rose and explained what things had been done 
by the King to the novus homo, and when supported 
by the Tokpo (a captain, but not of royal blood), he 
committed himself to a recapitulation. All gave the 
ruler that full feed of flattery which his soul loves. 
He may be said to breathe an atmosphere of adulation, 
which intoxicates him. The wildest assertions, the 
falsest protestations, the most ridiculous compliments, 
the ultra-Hibernian " blarney " — all are swallowed in 
the bottomless pit of poor human vanity, and midnight 
will often see him engaged in what ought to be a very 
nauseous occupation. 

Echih, the fourth caboceer of Whydah, then rose and 
performed the part of a skull at the Nilotic feast. The 



THE KING'S " SO-SIN CUSTOM." 369 

Ajyalio, he said, rarely lived for more than a year, and 
if Chabi, like those before him, should die of poison, 
the crime must be punished. Then the fat Adanejan 
declared, in his bull's voice, that he and many caboceers 
had proposed for the Ajyahoship another person, but 
that the King had chosen one trusty and brave ; more- 
over, that all poison would now be detected. 

Whereupon the lucky man stood up, puffed like a 
pouter-pigeon by the new clothes which the ministers 
had bound about his upper half; his hair was brick- 
dust red after much shovelhng, and his right hand 
nervously, methought, fingered his musket muzzle. 
After his " portrait " had been duly taken, he spoke till 
the sun burned crimson above the western horizon, 
even through the fringes and valances of our portable 
tent. He had been raised from a simple captain to the 
position of a high caboceer ; he would soon achieve an 
act of loyalty and bravery : with much boasting on the 
same pattern. After sundry prostrations, and other 
speeches to this purport, he publicly assumed three new 
"strong names": 1. Azon-kpo m^-ji-won ; 2. Acho- 
roko ; 3. Sevi kanyena-ma-se-gbo-'gbwe.* 

* The caboceers, like the kings of Dahome, assume a first name or 
names after any remarkable action or event. Those in the text are 

VOL. I. B B 



370 A. MISSION TO GELELE. 

A ehorus of plaudits received these distinguished 
sentiments. The Ajyaho danced under his unfolded 
umbrella, and, backed by his fresh gang of slaves, 
raised muskets and war-clubs to salute the King. 
Pxesently, Ago ! from the women, and the cymbal-taps 
from the men, proclaimed silence for royalty. 

The King, stUl sitting amidst his female group, then 
addressed the Ajyaho, who stood up reverently in the 
front centre of the caboceer's semicircle. He added em- 
phasis to earnest words by X)ften shaking the forefinger 
— las is done in North America to men, and in England 
to naughty boys — at his last promotion, whom he ex- 
horted to be brave and loyal, and whom he warned not 
to obey any dignity except the Min-gan and the Meu. 
Hereat the people clapped their hands. Silence -being 
again enjoined, the Ajyaho was once more strictly 
cautioned not to be deceived by his brother chiefs. 
Ensued the promotion of another captain, whose 

taken from the Bo-fetish jargon, and are not intelligible to the vulgar. 
The first was thus interpreted : Azon-kpo (a training stick), ma (not), ji 
(afraid, synonymous with si, or khe-si), won (portent, evil omen, espe- 
cially a child) ; viz., (I am) a club not afraid (to slay), portents (that 
mehace the king). The second was explained, " I will punish all who 
will not serve my king." The third means, Sevi (an evil-doer), kanyena 
(a bad thing), ma-se (never listens), gbo (dont ! or leave off I), 'ghwe I 
{emphatic, e.g., gbo-'gbwe, 1 tell you to leave off!); viz., "People 
plead for offenders, but I will not suffer this if any one harm the king." 



THE KING'S " SO-SIN CTJSTOM." 371 

name was changed from Koikon to Hon-je-no." 
Before all the ceremonies could be concluded, the 
wood became dark, and the store of provisions strewed 
before the King was distributed. The Dakros placed 
the calabashes outside the bamboos, whence they were 
removed by the several recipients. Suddenly, as is his 
wont, Gelele rose, and came towards us. After snap- 
ping fingers, I thanked him for the spectacle. He 
showed me the rum for our hammock-men, and our 
share of provisions ; after which we were all three 
told that we must dance, sing, and drum — the latter 
accomplishment, unfortunately, has not received from 
me the attention which it deserves. Dr. Cruikshank 
and I willingly consented to dance with the King, 
knowing it to be the custom, and that he greatly en- 
joyed it. We pleaded, however, successfully for Mr. 
Bernasko, who, being a Reverend, could only sing. 
Gelele showed much delicacy in the matter, often 
threatening but not calling upon us to perform, lest 
our nerves might be startled by so great an event, and 
saying that he would choose evening time, as the sun 
does aot «uit white men. 

* It is a Bo-fetish name, interpreted to mean " Tlie man in charge of 
tbC' King's door." Hon (door), je (waits), no (within). 

B B 2 



372 A MISSION TO GELELE. 

Whereupon we withdrew. The provisions, which 
accompanied us, caused a tumult till near dawn. Pain 
et spedables are apparently the cardinal wants of these 
people ; they sing, drum, and dance all the day, and they 
fight for their wretched provision half the night. When 
not engaged in these pleasures they are plundering the 
wherewithal to procure them. Hence the melancholy 
state of the land. 

Nothing could be poorer than the display above 
described ; any petty hill rajah in India could com- 
mand more wealth and splendour. All was a barren 
barbarism, whose only " sensation " was produced by a 
score of men looking on and hearing that they are 
about to die. 

I again sent a message to Chyudaton, officially ob- 
jecting to be present at any human sacrifice, propos- 
ing that lower animals be substituted for man, and 
declaring that if any death took place before me I 
should at once return to Whydah. He replied that 
there would be no necessity for the latter measure, and, 
with respect to the victims, that many would be re- 
leased, and that those executed would be only the 
worst of criminals and malignant war-captives. With 
which crumb of comfort I was compelled to rest satis- 



THE KING'S " SO-SIN CUSTOM." 373 

fied. Hitherto the gang of victims has been paraded 
round, under tortures, before the visitors, and in later 
years they have been cruelly gagged; moreover, the 
executions took place within hearing, and often within 
sight of the strangers.* It is, therefore, already some- 
thing to lower the demoralising prominence of the 
death scenes. 



SECTION B, 

The Avo uzu 'gbe,f or Second Day of the King's 
So-sin Customs. 

December 29th was again a dies non. The vile 
water had aflfected us all, and the Reverend was in 
bed of a Harmattan. The King, therefore, kindly 
deferred for a day the grand spectacle with which he 
intended to surprise us. At 2-25 p.m., December 30, 
we mounted hammocks and proceeded to the market- 
shed. 

The picture was as follows. To the west of the 

* See Mr, Danoan (vol. i. pp. 250-252). The people say of him that 
he was a good war-man, as he used to walk up to, and to inspect the 
corpses. 

t Avo (cloth), uzu (change), 'gbe (to-day). 



374 A MISSION TO GELELE. 

Uhun-jro, the broad open space opposite the gap which 
acts as gate, was another cloth-covered tent, with wings 
of upright matting. A clean entrance led up to the 
former, near which a tall flagstaff held a yellow flag 
with a broad blood-red cross. The wings were railed off 
for the royal wives by the usual Dahoman fence of palm 
sticks and bark rope. The erection was flanked by 
two large trees, about a hundred yards apart, and they 
were connected by a semicircle of bamboos, bulging to 
the front and forming the boundary between the sexes. 
To the north was the ominous victim-shed, with its 
steeple-like turret, and with its score of wretches 
gazing at the fete. 

Our chairs were placed on the men's side, or a Httle 
to the left of the tent entrance line, and on the opposite 
side of the square near the gate. Presently a motley 
group passed us three several times, moving as usual 
to the right. First appeared the old To-no-nun and 
his six eunuchs, who carried with difficulty a huge 
package, like a bagged tent. Followed a hunchback, 
whip in hand, clearing the way. Visese-gan, the sub- 
chief eunuchess, preceded about a score of women, 
carrying upon their heads coarse palm-mats; they 
were followed by an escort, bearing calabashes and 



THE KING'S " SO-SIN CUSTOM." 375 

baskets, each filled with about twenty bundles of 
tightly-rolled cloth, stuck upright and compacted by an 
outside wrapper. The total represented 120 bearers, 
but of these ten had no burden. Valuing the minimum 
at 2 dols., and the maximum at 5 dols., and assuming 
3 dols. to be the medium, the value shown to us was 
about 1320/. (110 x 20 = 2200 cloths = 6600 dols.). 
The rear was composed of a corps of "leopard wives," 
with silver-studded hair, and by a large band of 
women who, as they passed by, openly " chaffed " us. 
After the third circuit the mats were spread and the 
baskets were deposited at the entrance of the tent, 
when thirty women, coming from the wings and opeii'- 
ing the cloth bundles, began to build the " Avo lilli," * 
cloth heap or divan. 

Meanwhile, preceded by singing and dancing mus- 
keteers, the high dignitaries passed before us, riding, 
under their umbrellas, the horses which they have now 
ransomed, and followed by noisy bands. The two 
schools showed themselves at a glance. Our friends, 
the Anhn-wa-nun,f who is the " King's place," when 



* Avo (a cloth), and II or lilli (smootken ! ). 

t This is a Bo name, and imperfectly understood. The words are 
Anlin (a hole in the ground), wa (make), nun (a thing). 



376 A MISSION TO GELELE. 

royalty does not go to war, the Binazon or treasurer, 
the Bi-wan-ton or Junior Meu, the Abo and the Matro, 
uncle and brother, by the father's side, to the present 
King, either bowed smiling or came up to us and 
danced. The Matro, who holds the high dignity of 
lieutenant Gau, is a fine, tall young man; he was 
habited in a Moslem skull-cap, a large white body- 
cloth and canary-coloured shorts. When his band and 
musketeers had formed an oval opening opposite us, he 
danced with a face expressing great glee, instead of 
the usual serious and inanimate look. Two of his re- 
tainers, a jester and a soldier, conspicuous by his gloria 
of monkey skin, rising from a band of cowries, shouted 
in mediseyal phrase, " A Matro ! A Matro ! " As the 
excited chief took a musket and manoeuvred with it, 
his people bawled out " Da-mon." * The honour was 
great, but the dust and the heat were excessive. 

The unfriendly " umbrellas," namely those who dis- 
like foreigners, as the Min-gan, the Tokpo, the Woto, a 
small dark senior of royal blood, and others rode by 
either affecting to ignore our existence or suddenly 
looking the other way. We were much amused by the 

* Da (fire!) mon (as you are), i.e., "May you fire straight!" said 
in praise to one of high name. 



THE KING'S "SO-SIN CUSTOM." 377 

peculiarity of the other groups, which either prowled 
or rushed about outside the bamboos. The old To-no- 
nun and his fifty men went round the half ring, passing 
right and left, singing, dancing and clapping hands, 
taking aim with muskets, and waving their long knives. 
Then came the Pani-gan-ho-to or Gong-gong men, four 
in number, and carrying single and double cymbals, 
whilst a corresponding female band promenaded the 
space within the bamboos. Twenty singers also walked 
about, preceded by a peculiar drum borrowed from 
Ashanti and called Ganikbaja. At intervals stalked 
before us the Men-ho-blu-to,* or " Company of Boast- 
ers." These are a score of local and negro Radcliffes 
and De Courcys who by especial permission wear 
in "the presence" their broadbrims or white night- 
caps and theiB dirty cloths over their shoulders.f 
Moreover they are allowed to smoke long pipes, of which 
one was on the tomahawk principle ; and all over the 
square there were independent groups drumming and 
dancing violently as if to throw off the exuberance of 



* Men (man), ho (great), blu (do), to (he who does). 

t Throughout Toruba and the Gold Coast to bare the shoulders is 
like unhatting in England. These men were exempted from the 
necessity by a mere caprice of the King, not because they have in any 
respect distinguished themselves. 



S18 A MISSION TO GELELB. 

their animal spirits. So at Aden I have seen a 
Somah, when walking quietly down the road, seized by 
some unintelhgible influence and fall to capering like a 
dancing-master demented. 

Meanwhile the Amazons, throwing a stratum of loose 
cloths and covering them with a finer piece outspread, 
had built up a circular divan 12 feet in diameter by 
5 to 6 feet high.* Most of them were of European 
manufacture, many were made in the palace, and those 
that surmounted the heap were the best silks, of 
brightest colours — ^pink, yellow, red and tender green — 
which sound outrageous but which loolc side by side 
beautiful as a rainbow or a butterfly. All this finery is 
carried back after the ceremony to the palace, and is 
not, as I was assured, given to the people. 

At 4'5 P.M. an increase of bustle and hubbub announced 
the approach of the King. Preceded by boys and 
musket-men, cheering and presenting arms, came ' the 
Coeur de Marie umbrella, shading the fox-like features, 
the black face and the ignoble white nightcap of Adan- 
men-nun-kon. After an interval followed the royal 



* To the north of this divan, outside the bamhoos, a small heap of 
■silks was raised upon mats, in honour of Addo-kpon, of whom more 
presently. 



THE KING'S " SO-SIN CUSTOM." 379 

escort — three male caboceers, a " Gobbo," and a woman 
captain, marching before a female host. The King wore 
a straw calotte with a brilliant striped cloth, and was 
toujours la pipe cL la boucJie. He sat woman-like on a 
little dingy nag, with a' bell, and led by a chain halter. 
Behind his lion-umbrella and parasol trouped chanting 
soldieresses and a strong band, with seven skulls 
mounted on fancy flags, followed by a dozen " leopard 
wives " and a rearguard of old women and small girl 
recruits. The King passed three times in thirty minutes 
round the market-place, waving hands to us, and the 
" Ububu" rang and guns banged in all directions.' 

When the procession was over, Gelele took his seat in 
the pavilion, with his wives on the right, and on both 
flanks a bevy of musketeer women squatting motionless 
as statues. The male caboceers saluted, touching the 
ground outside the bamboos with their foreheads and 
twice shovelling up dust. A troop of men spread a 
thin line of single mats from the victim-shed past the 
bamboo semicircle and southwards towards the 
Komasi Palace : the extent was about 350 yards, and 
the breadth proved to be 12 to 13 feet. On each mat 
was placed a pole 14 feet long, tipped with a short and 
blunt iron fork. Presently the six eunuchs brought up 



380 A MISSION TO GELELE. 

and opened what had appeared a tent bag. This is 
the Nun-u-pwe-to * cloth belonging to King Gezo, a 
patchwork supposed to contain a specimen of every 
known manufacture, native or European. The pieces 
vary in size from 1 to 10 feet^ the colours are blue, 
yellow, green, pink, red, and purple, and the patterns 
checked, striped, zig-zaged and barred. This the King 
will wear about his person when Abeokuta has been 
taken. How he is to support 1050 feet of stuff no one 
could explain, but the investiture it appears has been 
deferred until the Grecian Kalends. 

As the King issued from his tent at 5.4 p.m. the long 
cloth which had been placed on the mats was upraised 
at arms' length by the attendants with the blunt iron 
forks passing through eyelet-holes. Thus exalted, it stood 
more than twice the height of a man. When the novel 
screen had been placed between the men and the 
women, Gelele passed up and down the inside and the 
outside, waving hands when opposite us. This exhibi- 
tion of untold wealth excited the people, as their fearful 
noises testified. 



• The word has already been explained, Mr. Duncan also describes 
this " noble piece of patchwork," making it 600 yards by 2 ; and in 
another place 1000 yards by 8 (vol, i. p. 264 ; and vol. ii. p. 27). 



THE KING'S " SO-SIN CUSTOM." 381 

The " Able-"to-do-anything " cloth having being re- 
moved, the King ascended the divan by a five-rung 
ladder covered with calico, picked out with pink reliefs. 
He w«,s accompanied by four wives. One held a 
parasol, which was repeatedly changed, and this she 
constantly twirled. The second was the spittoon 
bearer, who also fanned the King with a yellow silk 
kerchief, assisted by the more substantial hide circles 
of other women who stood below and around the heap. 
The other two opened and piled upon the divan the 
green, blue, pink and speckled muslins with which 
Gelele would " change cloth to-day." It was waxing 
late, and royalty had become fatigued and impatient : 
the King testily snatched the bundles from the hands 
of his wives, and worked at them in double quick 
time. 

Presently Gelele mounted the platform and there 
disrobed, retaining, however, his shorts, which were of 
satin yellow-flowered on a dark ground. From his 
left shoulder hung, by a long sash of crimson silk, a 
short silver-hilted sword. He first put on a toga of 
what appeared to be green netting, like a mosquito bar, 
and took in his right hand a large bright bill-hook 
ending in a circular bulge. He formed a most effective 



382 A MISSION TO GELELE. 

figure, his swarthy stalwart form being thrown out 
against the glowing western sky. 

The various dances, all of them in the decapitation 
style, performed by the King, corresponded with the 
number of " drums " or bands. On the male side, sitting 
in the Meu's or the minister division, were about twenty 
men and youths with "tabl," or tambourines, under 
their left arms ; they were habited in scarlet coats and 
queer bonnet-caps of red and black cloth. Within the 
bamboo, was an equal number of women, similarly clad. 
I will not trouble the reader with the names and details 
of the several corybantic saltations, comprising the 
first set' of eighteen and the second of one dozen. The 
King performed only a few steps of each, and then, out- 
stristching his left palm towards the musigue with an 
imperious gesture, he caused it to stop. Still the labour 
was severe, as. the free use of the forefinger, the yellow 
silk, and the hide . fans proved. The thirteenth dance 
of the second set was called " Agbata," a performance 
borrowed from the " Nago " people, and much admired 
for the kicking and jumping which are its elements. 
It drew down unusual applause: generally, however, 
shouts of joy, Miiurmurs of wonder, and discharges of 
musketry and cannon accompanied the vyhole perform- 



THE KING'S "SO-SIN CUSTOM." 383 

ance. The eunuchs cand the caboceers made courtier-like 
speeches, the " niggers " stoHdIy admired the grandeur 
of a king who can defray the expenses of such 
exhibitions, and a wild group of frontier bushmen, whO' 
act .as guides to the army when on the war path, hailed 
and bellowed their own melodies. These roughs were 
all armed with muskets, and they were led by two 
chiefs in dingy red tunics, whose thick beards and straw 
hats, which they did not remove before the King,, 
rendered them conspicuous. 

The brouJiaha was infernal. There was a. momentary 
hush as the King, having girt on with a cartouche belt. 
a toga of white mushn, armed himself with a lion-stick, 
and a musket, which he pointed at his subjects pre- 
tending to fire. At this burst out a glorious shout of 
real African laughter — yep ! yep ! yep ! — whilst guns 
were fired in all directions. The din increased when 
the brass-set skulls of the three kings * were severally 
handed to the conquering hero. With these trophies 
of his own peculiar prowess he toyed, and played various 
childish antics, to the intense delight of the mobile, 
placing them under his left arm, hiding them beneath 
his cloak, stretching them out for. better view, resting his 

* Described in Chapter IX. 



384 A MISSION TO GBLELE. 

elbow upon them, and waving them to us as we bowed* 
He then loudly addressed the Po-su's party, which stood 
on the left of the semicircle.* They feplied with noisy 
greetings, which he acknowledged by a crab-like move- 
ment, advancing and retreating sideways, with his left 
elbow akimbo, and jogged to the fore ; this expressive 
action is called " ago," and means " I undertake to 
do it." The King then tossed off a bumper of rum 
from the brass cup on the crown of " Bakoko's " head, 
and sent it to us that we might pledge him : it was at 
least as civilised as Lord . Byron's drinking cranium ; 
and more so than the " bony goblet " — " apparently not 
long before it had been useful to the original possessor " 
— out of which Mr. Duncan f caroused with King Gezo. 
I was allowed to sketch the three calvariae, and to 
handle the royal sticks and caps. One was of the Fanti 
Company, a loose calotte of purple velvet, with a yellow 
line on the crown, and a narrow band of white silk with 
a border round the lower part. The second had a 
tvhite shark on a puce-coloured velvet ; and the third, 
a cap of the Blue Company, resembled in shape a 
Moslem " Takiyah," but showed a green lion eating a 

• Mr. Duncan (vol. i. p. 247), saw King Gezo perform similar antics, 
t Vol. i. pp. 239, 240. 



THE KING'S " SO-SIN CUSTOM." 385 

claret-coloured porcupine, fretted over with quills of 
yellow stitching. These animals were all very heraldic 
and unintelligible. 

The vociferous rapture of the subjects knew no 
bounds as the King danced with his sword between 
his teeth, and exulted over Bakoko's skull and the 
breaking of Ishagga. The Buko-no eagerly asked me, 
if all the world o'er I had ever seen so grand a 
sight 1 I have had to answer similar queries in far 
more civihsed countries ; and I have ever found that 
there is nothing easier than to convince people who 
already believe. 

Presently the King began to hand down decanters 
of rum, a sign that he was weary of pleasure — he had 
danced thirty two dances. At 6.15 p.m. he descended 
from the divan, and mounted the smaller heap, whose 
cover was a white cloth powdered with little ochre - 
coloured lions. Here the King assumed his fetish 
war-dress, a body-pagne of chocolate-coloured netting, 
and a dark blue indigo-dyed cloth, passing from the left 
shoulder low down the right side : it was studded 
with charms and amulets in small squares, stained with 
dry blood, and bordered with cowries.'"' His umbrella 

• Cowries may be remarked in the musket stocks. According to 

VOL. I. c c 



386 ■ A MISSION TO GELELE. 

was equally gloomy, and his large crooked Bo-stick was 
swathed with alternate blue and white bandages. After 
motioning with this weapon, he danced to the songs 
and instruments of the fetishmen, and seized a musket, 
which he levelled but did not discharge. He then 
came forward, and we advanced : after the usual greet- 
ings, I requested him not to forget his English coat of 
mail, which hint was whispered in his ear by the timid 
Beecham, who dreaded the fetishry. After a little 
chatting, and being requested to return on the morrow, 
we made for home with much pleasure, — there are 
none of Kirnmel's perfumed fountains here. 

Mr. Duncan (vol. i. p. 261), they are an honourable distinction, given 
as medals to civilised armies. The stock is repeatedly smeared with the 
victim's blood, coat after coat, till its thickness is sufficient to form a 
setting for the shell, around -which it soon dries. Although only one 
cowrie is given per head, some old soldiers have their weapons entirely 
covered over with them. This custom, of course, stimulates murder, 
and excites perpetual jealousies in the service. I have heard the same 
said of a certain modern English decoration. 



END OF. VOL. I. 



BRADBURY AND EYAKS, PRINTERS, ■WHITEFKIARS. 



AJ^HP^^^^^^H